May 25, 2011

American Presidents in Ireland

President Obama's recent visit to Ireland has made me think about which presidents traveled to Ireland while in office, and why.

There are many speculations about why Obama is visiting Ireland right now. I'm not sure why he went there, to be honest. Everyone, of course, should go because it's a wonderful country to visit. Obama went to Dublin to meet with Ireland's president Mary McAleese and then to the tiny Moneygall, birthplace of Obama's 3X great grandfather.

The Irish were amazingly enthralled by his visit (at least it's amazing to this American.) If it weren't a political visit, if Obama stayed longer, if he was truly interested in his genealogy (someone else did the work for him, but that's not surprising) I would understand completely. A vast number of Americans can trace some branch of their family tree to Ireland. There are more Irish in America than there are in Ireland. (True, Obama is only 3.9% Irish, but that hardly matters. America is a melting pot.)

But to be fair, other standing American presidents went to Ireland for political reasons, including Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, and Kennedy. For some it was a much more emotional and meaningful experience than just political one, and I'm not going to judge that. Plenty of other people have.

I think that perhaps these presidents realize that if they connect with their Irishness (is that a word?) then they'll also connect with many, many Americans. And that does make sense to me (casting aside all the reasons he perhaps should not have spent money on a European tour while our economy struggles and we deal with tornado devastation. That's another topic for another kind of blog.) You???

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