New York Sun Staff EditorialMay 3, 2007
So it turns out, the Daily Telegraph reports from Dublin, that Barack Obama's great-great-great-great grandfather was "Joseph Kearney, a well-to-do shoemaker from Moneygall, County Offaly, Ireland, who lived from 1794 to 1861."
Reports the Telegraph, "The presidential candidate comes from an Irish Anglican family, many of whom emigrated to the New World around the time of the famine and Ireland's decimated potato crop in the 1840s." Irish radio reported earlier this spring that while much has been made of Obama's Kenyan roots, little has been made of his Irish ancestry. The radio network's Web site reported that the Obama forbear "sailed from Ireland to New York in 1850 at the age of 19 on the S.S. Marmion arriving on the 20th of March."
It reminded us of the discovery by Seth Gitell, who is a contributing editor of the Sun, back in 1999 of Hillary Clinton's grandmother, Della Rosenberg, who a headline in the Forward at the time described as "The Feisty Wife of a Yiddish-Speaking Jewish Immigrant." Whatever you think of Senators Clinton or Obama or their politics, it's hard but to marvel at the American melting pot and at the way immigration strengthens America, sometimes in surprising, and nearly always in wonderful, ways.
On Tuesday in Washington, Senator Kennedy appeared at a conference in Washington of the Anti-Defamation League to announce the re-issuance of President Kennedy's essay of that title, "A Nation of Immigrants," which was published by the ADL in 1958.
Said the senator, "Every time the Senate takes up the issue of immigration reform, I reread my brother's book for inspiration. The words he wrote half a century ago ring just as true today. As he stated, ‘This was the secret of America: a nation of people with the fresh memory of old traditions who dared to explore new frontiers, people eager to build lives for themselves in a spacious society that did not restrict their freedom of choice and action.'"
The same day Senator Kennedy was addressing the ADL, Mayor Giuliani was speaking to the Latino Coalition.
Mr. Giuliani, speaking of immigration, said, "In trying to fix this problem, we can't lose being the country that more people want to come to than any country in the world or in the history of the world."
He quoted Lincoln as saying that "a good American is not determined by how long they or their family has been in the United States. You can be here a day and be a great American, and you can be here forever and not understand what it means to be an American."
He noted that if the anti-immigration forces had won out in American history, he might not be here, and he wondered, "Where would the people be that grew our economy, that fought our wars, that gave us the freedoms we have now?"
We fully comprehend how fraught immigration politics are at the moment. All the more inspiring Mr. Obama's example. The point isn't that Irish Americans will now vote lockstep for Obama, or that Jews would be more inclined to vote for Mrs. Clinton than they otherwise would have, or that Hispanics or Italians are going to flock to back Mr, Giuliani.
The point is that a majority of Americans of all backgrounds and political affiliations appreciate that we are a nation of immigrants, and that it is a fact that enriches us far more than it divides us.
NEW YORK SUN