By the President of the United States of America
The story of the Irish in America, of those millions of Americans who trace their ancestry back to the Emerald Isle, is typical of so many American immigrants, yet is also uniquely influenced by the rich culture of Ireland. Like so many of our forebears, they came to this land seeking a better future. In the process of becoming Americans, they changed themselves, changed America, and changed the world.
By 1776, 300,000 natives of Ireland had already emigrated to the Colonies. They fought bravely in the American Revolution and helped to establish a new Nation. Eight signatories of the Declaration of Independence were of Irish origin. In the early years of the young Republic, as workers on the canals and railroads, they played a major role in the settlement of the West.
However, it was not until the great potato famine of the late 1840s that the trickle of Irish immigration became a flood. More than one million Irish men and women came to the United States during that period. They moved primarily into our great cities, which they quickly transformed into the bustling beehives of activity that they have been ever since.
Confronted by prejudice and sign after sign proclaiming "No Irish Need Apply," the new immigrants immersed themselves in the politics of such cities as New York, Boston, and Chicago. In fact, the political legacy of the Irish-American community may well be the most important of all its contributions to our Nation. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, as well as 16 other Presidents, have proudly proclaimed their Irish-American heritage. America has been blessed by the leadership of other Irish Americans as well, including Mike Mansfield, Tip O'Neill, and Tom Foley in the Congress, and Al Smith, Ray Flynn, and Richard Daley at the State and local levels.
However, the contributions of Irish Americans go well beyond politics. In Washington, D.C., alone, James Hoban designed and supervised the construction of the White House and assisted in the construction of the Capitol; Colonel Thomas Lincoln Casey completed the construction of the Washington Monument after it had been abandoned during the Civil War; and William Wilson Corcoran founded the gallery that now bears his name.
Irish Americans have also enriched the culture of their adopted land. Whether we think of Finley Peter Dunne, who satirized politics in the early 20th century; Jimmy Breslin, who has done much the same more recently; or Eugene O'Neill, one of the great playwrights of all time, the Irish contribution to American literature is broad and deep. In the performing arts, composer George M. Cohan, dancer Gene Kelly, and actress Grace Kelly have come to symbolize America to the world.
In tribute to all Irish Americans, the Congress, by House Joint Resolution 500, has designated March 1993 as "Irish-American Heritage Month" and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this month.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 1993 as Irish-American Heritage Month. I urge all Americans to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixth day of March, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventeenth.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON