Big St. Patrick's Day Plans At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
More than 40 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, and the White House is taking notice, with a day filled with Irish-themed events. And according to Megan Smolenyak, chief family historian at Ancestry.com, President Obama has Irish ancestors on his mother's side, which an be traced back to the small towns of Moneygall and Shinrone in County Offaly, Ireland. His third great-grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, immigrated in 1849, his family following a year later. They ultimately settled in Fayette County, Ohio, among Irish relatives. (Pic above: The fountain on the North lawn of the White House, dyed green this AM)
Today at the White House, there will be a Shamrock Ceremony in the Roosevelt Room, and Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach of Ireland, will present the President with a bowl of shamrocks, the traditional welcome gift for a new president. The meeting with Mr. Cowen is highly political, and The Irish Times points this out:
...the leader of the most powerful nation on earth will devote much of his working day to one of the smallest countries in Europe – one that is not even a military ally of the United States....St Patrick’s Day in the US is, above all, a cultural event and an opportunity for Americans to connect with part of their national story shared by many with no Irish origins – the experience of fleeing poverty and oppression in search of dignity and opportunity.
Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and national security advisor Jim Jones will join Barack and Mr. Cowen at the Shamrock Ceremony and in meetings, and then they'll all attend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's St. Patrick's Day lunch, which will, of course, be a bipartisan affair, loaded with Senators and House Members.
In the evening, there will be two St. Patrick's Day receptions. Irish American lawmakers and other Irish Americans have been invited, according to a White House aide; close to 400 guests are expected. Chicago-based pipe and drup corps The Shannon Rovers Irish Bagpipe Band will play, in their very first White House appearance, although the band has performed for many presidents, dating back to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Irish poet Paul Muldoon, who now lives in the US, will also read from his work.
Michelle Obama came up with the idea of dying the water in the White House fountains green today, according to her spokeswoman, Katie McCormick Lelyveld. Both the fountains on the North and South lawns are green, to mimic Chicago's annual tradition of dying the river green on St. Patrick's day.
H/T: Lynn Sweet's blog, and Politico.
Follow the Shannon Rovers on Twitter: @shannonrovers. You can follow Ob Fo on Twitter too: @obamafoodorama.
*Fountain pic from CBS2, Obama pix from Cafe Press.