“I’m, Irish. There are some things more important to me than money.” – POLICE COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY
Our Top 100 is about many things, but more than anything, it’s about heart.
It’s about an 11-year-old giving up play time to practice Irish dance and winning the World Championship in Ireland.
It’s about a snowboarder going for the gold and coming up just short, and a skater practicing the quadruple jump over and over until she gets it.
It’s about going to Afghanistan to help women be better midwives and doctors, and giving a kid a new life by fixing a cleft palate. And it’s about reaching out and using your corporate muscle to raise funds so that far away in Africa a woman doesn’t have to walk two hours to a well and back again.
For an organization called the Heart of Camden it’s about pushing back at ravaging poverty and older Irish immigrants helping out newer immigrant families.
It’s about keeping the tradition alive through music, and being entertained and informed by first-rate actors, artists, writers and journalists.
And it’s about pushing the boundaries, and in the case of the shuttle crew, leaving the earth’s boundaries altogether.
It’s about tradition and heritage, and service.
And it’s about education – the key to the future, and in the case of Irish Studies programs, a window on the past.
Continuity and connection to the past is something we feel strongly in Irish America. And in honoring those on our Top 100 list we remember those who went before.
In our story on Jim Kelly, who heads up Catholic Charities in New Orleans, we see an element of Margaret, an Irish woman who took in orphaned Irish children whose parents died on famine ships en route to New Orleans in the 1800s.
The history of Irish in the military is reflected in our “Soldier Ride” story, and Sgts. Kelly and Calhoun. Both lost limbs in Iraq but they still cycled across the country to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. And sadly, in reading Lt. Michael Murphy’s profile in the “Those We Lost” section, we are reminded of all those who didn’t make it home.
On Green Street, outside the studio of Kit DeFever, where Police Commissioner Ray Kelly graciously posed for our cover photo, the cobblestones – nice to look at but tough to walk on – offer a glimpse of old New York. I imagine an Irish immigrant of a hundred years ago pushing a cart along a street such as this and I say as much to Ray Kelly. “My father was a milkman with a horse and cart,” he tells me, and the past becomes a part of the present.
In America, like nowhere else, we are proud of simple beginnings and where they can take you when you stick to the road, though the going may be tough.
In the wake of 9/11, Kelly’s job is particularly tough, but it’s one he took because he felt he had something to offer. He is a cop who knows the streets of New York well, having grown up here, and under his command the city’s crime rate is at an all time low. We couldn’t ask for a better person to be in charge in the face of a terrorist threat than this ex Marine, and we couldn’t have picked a better “Irish-American of the Year.”
We are also proud to honor the Commissioner’s son, Greg Kelly. A former Marine like his father, Greg delivered extensive coverage on Iraq and now serves as a White House reporter for Fox News.
We are big on tradition in Irish America and big on family. And every year in this issue we look at Irish-Americans all across the country and see that there is much to make us proud. So let us celebrate and lift a glass to all our Top 100 and to ancestors who continue to inspire us. Even when they had little else, they had the music and dance and they knew how to make a party.
Mortas Cine. ♦
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