It’s a pretty important day in Emmetsburg, Iowa, one we start preparing for at about 12:01 am on December 26th. Once Christmas is officially over, it’s on to St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve only missed one St. Pat’s celebration in my life, a day I spent en route from England on a spring break trip. I spent then entire flight close to tears and talking the ear off of the guy next to me, detailing every last element of St. Patrick’s Day in my beloved hometown. He ended up feeling so sorry for me that he bought me a beer and convinced the flight attendant to give me the “Kiss Me I’m Irish” button right from her lapel.
I know that for most of the population, St. Patrick’s Day is a watered down holiday used as an excuse for day drinking.
And don’t worry, we’ll do plenty of that here too. But in Emmetsburg, St. Patrick’s day is also about so much more. It may because children learn about Irish American history starting in grade school, it may be because the KKK was burning crosses on the lawns of Catholic families as recently as our grandparents’ generation, but here, we’re not simply celebrating our Irish heritage, we’re celebrating the success of Irish immigrants.
We’re celebrating the people who came to this country poor and dirty and hungry, who desperately needed to escape persecution in their homelands and sought refuge in America.
People who fought and sacrificed and risked everything to purchase the farmland that feeds our country, the land that employees our neighbors, that has given birth to a life so rich our ancestors could barely have imagined it.
We’re celebrating largely unwanted immigrants, people who spoke differently, and ate differently and worshiped differently. We’re celebrating a country that gave these immigrants an opportunity to escape hunger and death and persecution; an opportunity to build a community that continues to prosper.
When we moved back to Emmetsburg seven years ago, I realized how much I owe the community that raised me. The community that provided me with loving neighbors and safe streets and quality education. A community settled and built and cultivated by immigrants.
On Friday, hundreds of innocent people came to our country to seek the same opportunity.
They cleared months and even years of background checks only to be denied entry and detained under the orders of one man. Desolate refugees, doctors, scientists, students, decorated war veterans. Young children and the elderly. People who speak differently and eat differently and worship differently. I look at their pictures and read their stories and wonder what their lives in America might hold, how different our country may look because of their contributions.
So today, and every day, I raise my glass to the immigrants who have made my life possible. Today, and each day forward, I will raise my voice for the immigrants and refugees who deserve the chance to do the same for their own families.
Raise your voice:
Contact your state legislature and representatives to let them know that Trump’s immigration ban is not what we want for America’s future: