By Patrick McHale Browne – Pennsylvania State Senator – 16th District and Grandson of County Mayo, Ireland
Once upon a time in America, propelled by the promise of the New World, a begotten and besieged race of people, the cast out and conflicted children of Erin, began their final steps on a millennial journey. Tired, torn and tattered, on the desperate boats of famine they sailed – calluses and cracks their only possession of hand. Backs and shoulders burdened by the suffering and sacrifice of thousands long since past.
Yet, when the sun rose up behind them, on the dawn of a new day, a golden shore, a magnificent genesis would consume the horizon – a landing labored for by mankind’s legions, longed for by humanities destitute. Once settled, enveloped in America’s embrace, the Irish would find their destiny, unattained despite centuries of battle, blight and blood in their native soil. And from this time forward, the new world’s beacon of freedom, the sheen of liberties limelight would, in part, take on a bright shade of emerald green.
In the citadel of freedom, the Irish spirit would thrive. On the backs and braughn of the Irish, American cities rose and bridges spanned, railroads forged west to unify a continent and mountain plateaus moved to fuel a fledging nation. They offered supreme sacrifice on its battlefields. One hundred and fifty years past, the gallantry of the men of the Irish brigade on the hallowed ground of the American civil war still inspires, still captivates the conscience. And they found comfort in its communities. In America’s metropolis, large and small, the Irish populated neighborhoods, built congregations and weaved their unique spirited culture into the collage of humanity which is our melting pot. Once relegated to servitude and seclusion, the American experience provided the Irish the dignity that St Patrick aspired for them – the promise that their hopes and dreams could be pursued, could be realized.
America’s bequest to the Irish, as it has done for all those yearning to be free, was to unleash the potential of the human condition; the divine spark within each and every mortal soul to find promise and posterity reached when uncoupled from the shackles of servitude. With freedom the Irish initiated, they innovated, they inspired. They gave purpose; they took part in America’s ascension to greatness.
Reflecting on the Irish journey, as the culmination of mankind’s quest for the freedom of the human soul, America and its sovereign jurisdictions must continue to instill in all its pronouncements a reverence to its indelible legacy which attracted and activated the Irish and all those once retched, once refused. Notwithstanding populist postulation or feverous financial friction, our public sector must continue to foster individual autonomy as its overriding objective and primary platform. For if the human journey teaches us anything, especially that of the Irish, it is that regardless of passage of time, place or personality, regardless of the changing condition and material advancement of the human circumstance, it is only the encroachment of a collective or paternal mandate to manage those circumstances which is abhorrent to the fundamental truths of man and his individual potential for posterity. The Irish did not thrive when under the thumb, did not prosper under the penal law’s sequester, did not blossom when under Britannica’s boot. Only through a reverence and resolve to the virtue of human dignity, preached to them by Saint Patrick, provided to them in freedom’s embrace, was this realized.
As proclaimed in mystic folklore of the ancient Irish, upon the conclusion of their mortal existence, the sacred souls of the emerald Isle first enter the Kingdom of Heaven through the lush and fertile hills of Tara where St Patrick first bestowed the divine grace of Christ upon his adopted brethren. Once upon a time in America, the once desperate and destitute Irish, cast away and castigated with dreams unattained, began to hear the triumphal testaments of Tara in the hallowed halls of liberties cathedral. Through the centuries it has been the inspirations and aspirations of St Patrick who bestowed on the Irish the faith and strength to look to the horizon and realize their destiny – a destiny instilled in the dignity of all man. America was conceived and created as the beacon of hope on that horizon and it is was here that the Irish people first came ashore. As an American prayer on this feast of Saint Patrick, let us resolve to preserve the principals which allowed it to kindle and rekindle the divine spark in the Irish spirit. As American’s it is our birthright – as free people, it is our destiny.