During the Shamrock Ceremony held at the White House earlier in the day, Barack reffed his Irish heritage on his mother's side, and joked that he and Taoiseach Cowen might be cousins. After welcoming everyone, Speaker Pelosi added to the We Are All Irish Now theme in her remarks:
...we have an Italian American woman Speaker and we have a multi-hyphenated Irish African-American as President of the United States. So here we are, celebrating a heritage, strengthening a bond, and enjoying each other's company on the feast of St. Patrick...Now, I can't claim Irish heritage as the President can, and as so many of you can. But I have Irish grandchildren: Sean, Liam and Ryan. And when they visited their grandfather in Ireland this year they were told in the Irish pubs, it's 'O'Bama.'The absence of Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) was sadly noted, too. Of course The President also spoke, and things became serious when he discussed the ongoing Irish peace process, and noted that the past and the future of our nations are forever intertwined, and promised to remain stong allies with Ireland. Barack became very poetic when he highlighted how crucial Irish Americans have been to US history:
Irish hands have signed our founding documents and fought in our wars. They've helped build our greatest cities. Through tragedy and triumph, despite bigotry and hostility, and against all odds, the Irish created a place for themselves in the American story.
The luncheon dates back to 1983, when House Speaker Tip O'Neill, a Democrat, decided to hold a nice St. Paddy's Day event in an effort to improve relations with President Ronald Reagan, a Dem who had gone Con-mando, and become a Republican. The tradition has continued each year, and Irish politicos, luminaries and sitting Presidents have been frequent guests. At last year's luncheon, also hosted by Speaker Pelosi, Taoiseach Patrick Bartholomew “Bertie” Ahern (1997 to 2008) was an honored guest.
And now, on to the menu: It was nouveau Irish (don't forget that Ireland is also very European), but the dessert and wine were excellent choices from Speaker Pelosi's home state: Foppiano Vineyards from Sonoma County, Au Bon Climat Winery from the Central Coast region, and Ghiradelli Chocolate from San Francisco.
Terrine of Smoked Salmon
Crab and Avocado with Yellow Pepper Coulis
Lamb Chops Provencal with Madeira Sauce
Crispy Fried Potatoes
Fondue of Vegetables
Ghirardelli Chocolate Praline Mousse
Coffee and Tea
Au Bon Climat Chardonnay 2007
Foppiano Petite Sirah 2005
In pic below: Speaker Pelosi, The President, and Brian Cowen leaving the Capitol following the luncheon (AP).
*The full text of Speaker Pelosi's remarks is here. The full text of Barack's remarks is here. The full schedule of White House St. Patrick's Events is here; the menu for the evening reception is here.