St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, but all of March is Irish-American Heritage Month.
Since the founding of America, Irish immigrants have traveled across the ocean to seek better lives and more freedom in the United States. Thousands entered the country through Ellis Island, then traveled on to settle the nation. The influence of Irish immigrants can be seen most famously in New York, Chicago and Boston, to Appalachia and the American West.
The Irish and Irish-Americans faced a tough road in helping write American history. Thousands fled to the United States during the Great Famine, seeking relief from hunger and poverty. They took jobs in factories and other manual-labor industries to get by – when they could find work, that is.
Many walked the streets to the sights of “No Irish need apply” signs, proving America wasn’t ready for them, although they were ready to contribute. They were ridiculed for their Catholic beliefs and often lived in squalor, cramming large families into small tenement apartments.
But freedom and the American Dream inspire endurance. The Irish stuck together while also becoming part of the communities in which they settled. They built roads and canals, worked in manufacturing plants, settled the West and soon became integral members of American melting pot.
One-hundred years after ethnic and religious discrimination tainted towns and cities, Americans elected our first Irish-Catholic president, John F. Kennedy.
Today, nearly 35 million Americans list their heritage as partially Irish. They’re proud of who they are and proud of where they came from. Our Irish ancestry built the country, fought in wars and worked tirelessly to make America a better place for future generations. The spirit of freedom can’t be crushed. It will endure and grow under adversity!