‘This great nation of immigrants’: Biden recalls Irish ancestors in video for newly naturalised US citizensavril 5, 2021
President Joe Biden recalled his Irish ancestors journeying to America as part of his new naturalization video for US citizens.
The 78-year-old said in the address, released online today by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS), that he welcomed them to “this great nation of immigrants”, that included his two relatives who left Ireland nearly 200-years-ago.
It is tradition for the new president to record the address that will be played at the hundreds of naturalisation ceremonies across the country.
But Biden’s message is one of stark contrast to his predecessor, who often railed against the threat of immigration.
In the 1min 42 seconds address Biden, who last month held a virtual meeting with Ireland’s Taoiseach Michael Martin whilst wearing a pocketful of clover, praised immigrants for their “courage” in leaving “your homes, your lives, your loved ones” to come to the US and look for a land of “possibilities”.
“I want to thank you for choosing us and believing that America is worthy of your aspirations,” he said. “Every immigrant comes to America from different circumstances and for different reasons. But you all have one thing in common: Courage. The courage it takes to sacrifice and make this journey. The courage to leave your homes, your lives, your loved ones, and come to a nation that is more than just a place but rather an idea.”
He continued: “An idea that everyone deserves to be equal and to be treated equally. We can define America in one word: Possibilities. Since its founding the very idea has been nurtured, enriched and advanced by the contributions, sacrifices and dreams of immigrants like you and just like my own ancestors from Ireland.”
Biden has spoken in the past of his Irish ancestry, with two relatives leaving during the Irish famine.
In 2016 a genealogist told the BBC that now President Biden’s maternal great-great-grandfather, Owen Finnegan, emigrated from the port of Newry, County Down, in 1849; one of two million who left during the famine that killed nearly one eight of the population.
In 2016, Biden paid a visit to the country where he met distant relatives including Laurita Blewitt and her family from Ballina, who were invited to the White House in 2017 to see him receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
A few months later he flew to Ireland at her invitation to open the Mayo Roscommon Hospice, where she works as a fundraiser.
They are distant cousins, through Ms Blewitt’s father.
Biden has previously said that: “Being Irish, without fear of contradiction, has shaped my entire life.”
In an interview with the Irish Times newspaper and state broadcaster, RTÉ ahead of his 2016 visit he said: “I grew up in a household where my grandfather and grandmother Finnegan, all my mother’s brothers and my father told us about the courage and commitment it took for our relatives to emigrate from Ireland – in the midst of tragedy – to distant shores where they didn’t know what awaited them. And those values – their passion and principle, their faith and fortitude – shaped the way my siblings and I were raised.”
172-years after his ancestors arrived in the states, President Biden said in his video to new Americans: “Today you’ve earned a new title equal to that of an American president, the title I’m most proud of: Citizen.
“Citizen of the United States of America. I look forward to standing with you as you embrace your new rights and responsibilities. As you build your lives and legacies here like generations have done before you in this great nation of immigrants. Welcome my friends, welcome my fellow Americans, welcome.”