By the President of the United States of America
Throughout the history of the United States, from the founding of our republic to the modern spread of our cultural influence around the globe, American life has been enriched continuously by the contributions of Irish Americans.
Although thousands of immigrants from Ireland had already come to America before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the largest number emigrated from their homeland in the middle of the 19th century, when devastating famine overtook their native Ireland. Many moved into our cities, where their hard work helped American industries, their political skills energized local government, and their culture added richness to urban neighborhoods. Others, freshly arrived from Cork, Kilkenny, or Belfast, kept moving all the way to the American West. Wherever they went, they added their muscle to the building of our railroads, bridges, tunnels, and canals, and they applied their minds to the shaping of American law and letters. And their values were exemplified by a firm confidence in education, a dedication to the work ethic, and a deep belief in God.
America offered these new citizens abundant opportunities and the freedom to exercise their talents in a country that was still less than 100 years old. In return, Ireland added immensely to the American national character. This month, when communities all across the Nation celebrate St. Patrick's Day, we honor the millions of Americans who trace their lineage to Ireland.
Our country has been blessed by the rich legacy of famous Americans whose ancestors emigrated to our shores from Ireland. Georgia O'Keefe, Edgar Allen Poe, and F. Scott Fitzgerald are just a few among the many whose talents have graced the arts. Andrew Mellon and Henry Ford excelled in business and finance. Will Rogers, Spencer Tracy, Bing Crosby, and John Wayne have entertained us. Pierce Butler signed the Constitution, General Douglas MacArthur led the Allied Forces in the Pacific during World War II, and Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman to sit on our Supreme Court.
But let us not forget the sacrifices, dedication, and profound achievements of the thousands of less well-known Irish Americans who have labored to make the United States a country of which we all can be proud. They were-and continue to be-motivated by their deep commitment and fervent loyalty to family, friends, community, and country. This month we honor them and thank them for their efforts.
Now, Therefore, I, William J. Clinton, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 1997 as Irish-American Heritage Month. I call upon all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-seventh day of February, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-first.
William J. Clinton
[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 10:54 a.m., February 28, 1997]