“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
At most of our southern borders, there is no great statue welcoming anyone. There is only the vast expanse of desert to cross, there is only the journey. No one comes through this looking good, but at the end there is the goal. It may not be paradise, but it sure looks like it to someone running, riding, walking, moving however they can just a few steps ahead of death.
St Patrick’s Day has a different meaning to different people. In the US, it’s long been a drunken celebration of Irish ancestry. In Ireland itself, it’s traditionally a day to go to church. For me, however, it has always been a day to note the greatest of all Irish contributions to America. Our nation, the nation we made our own, was transformed by our arrival. It is a nation of immigrants because we showed the way, hated as we were at the time.
Our birthright to what might look like paradise gives us the luxury of judging. Often the best we can muster is a simple account of our blessings and the fragility of chance, “There but for the Grace of God go I.” For those of us who are Irish, it’s more like “There, with the Grace of God, we came.”
We were there. They are us.
I have explained this many different ways ofver many St Patrick’s Days here, but today I want us allto make use of our long Celtic memories and recall just who we are and how we got here. We made it, and so can anyone. We made this nation, and so do they.