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Transcript: Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray Host St. Patrick's Day Breakfast at Gracie Mansion

March 17, 2016

Video available at: https://youtu.be/hhsu3syd1BE

First Lady Chirlane McCray: Hello, thank you Maureen, and hello everyone!

[First Lady speaks Gaelic]

What a wonderful way to start St. Patrick’s Day. I’m honored to welcome all of you to Gracie Mansion. This is the people’s house, this is your house, and you are always welcome here. This house is also full of Irish-American history, from the foundation on up. While we can’t say for sure, it is very likely Irish builders, artisans, and tradespeople helped build this house back in 1799.

And you see that lovely chandelier hanging above us right now? Well, that chandelier dates back to 1785, and we’re almost positive it comes from Ireland’s first crystal factory, which was located in County Tyrone. The chandelier was once owned by William Russell Grace, the first Irish-born, Roman Catholic mayor of New York City. Mayor Grace served twice, from 1880 to 1882, and again from 1884 to 1886 – back when terms only lasted only two terms. He was a reformer who fought against Tammany Hall, and a successful businessperson whose company continues to thrive. Now these two stories, the story of the Irish working people who likely helped build Gracie Mansion, and the story of the Irish entrepreneur, who less than a century later served as mayor, bring to life an important truth: you cannot talk about the history of New York without talking about the Irish. You can’t talk about the history of New York without talking about the New Yorkers whose blood, sweat, and tears nurtured our city’s rise to greatness.

But today isn’t just a celebration of our shared history, it’s also a celebration of the future, what we share together. And I am so, so happy that this year’s parade is open to everyone for the very first time.

[Applause]

The greatness I mentioned earlier, that greatness has long been a product of the city’s open arms policy. Irish people came to New York and stayed in New York because they believed that with a lot of determination and a lot of hard work, this was a place where they could achieve their dreams. So this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade honors that legacy, and I cannot wait to see the green, orange, and white Irish flag flying alongside the rainbow flag of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, as we –

[Applause]

As we make our way down the parade route. You know the saying, on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish. Well on this historic day, that saying rings truer than ever. Today, the whole city marches with you toward the brighter and greener tomorrow. It is now my pleasure to introduce a man who is so excited to be part of today’s festivities, my husband and our mayor – I’m going to call him Bill O’Blasio today.

[Laughter]

It’s a great day to be Irish and a great day for New York. Thank you.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you, Chirlane, for the impromptu name change. She has the power to do that, so – and thank you for reminding us of the extraordinary history. The Irish community in this city, from the very beginning, made New York City great. We just have to see it as simply as that. This is one of the core communities upon which this city was built to be what it is. If you think of us as a leader in the world, you think of us as a global capital, and someplace that people admire all over the world, a big piece of that credit goes to Irish Americans who made us great.

And this is a year to really take stock of that history, because the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising is a moment to remember everything Irish people went through. What they encountered when they came here, seeking a better life but unfortunately, encountering tremendous discrimination that they had to overcome, over decades and decades. But, also the fight against colonialism in their homeland, which really was one of the great and one of the earliest anti-colonial struggles anywhere in the world. People all over the world look to Ireland for inspiration. And, the success of the Easter Rising encouraged a path that led to a different world, literally touched every continent and every people – as it set a new standard of people being free.

So this is a powerful, powerful year to celebrate all that it means to be Irish and the contributions of Ireland to the world and to this country. Now everyone, everyone wanted to be here today. George Mitchell is here. Everyone wants to be here.

[Applause]

I want to just quickly thank some folks who are here. I have expressed my praise before. And Minister, I want you to hear this because you should know the good work that is happening here at the Irish Consulate in New York. But I’ve expressed my praise before for the Consul General for the extraordinarily positive role she played in helping everyone in this city to come together. Let’s thank Barbara Jones.

[Applause]

And I also have to tell you, when it comes to people finding unity and coming together we have to remember how many people worked long and hard for that. It wasn’t always easy but, let’s give a lot of credit to Brendan Fay as well, the Lavender and Green Alliance. Now, I have all these wonderful notes of people who are here. I’m not going to – I am certain, I will not note everyone who is here who I should. Let’s start with that.

But, let me say, from our administration I’d like to thank Deputy Mayor Richard Buery; Commissioner of OATH, Fidel Del Valle; our Commissioner for Veteran’s Affairs, Loree Sutton; our Sanitation Commissioner, Kathryn Garcia; Commissioner for the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, Cecile Noel. The Bronx District Attorney, Darcel Clark, is here. Roy Richter, President of the Captains Endowment Association is here, and many other people are here.

Is Councilmember Danny Dromm here?

[Applause]

Also a stalwart, a stalwart working for this day. And Danny thank you, thank you for all you did.

[Applause]

And I want to thank everyone for being here and everyone for celebrating with us. So this community has done so much, and is absolutely synonymous with the immigrant experience in New York. So much so, that when Ellis Island was created – you know, once upon a time, there wasn’t an Ellis Island. Many people came to this city, came to this country, but when Ellis Island was created, the first person to go through it, New Year’s Eve 1891 – a young girl named Annie Moore. She arrived in New York City on the S.S. Nevada. She traveled all the way from County Cork –

[Cheers]

And became the first immigrant – thank you, Cork – became the first immigrant to pass through the then-new Ellis Island. And from that moment to today, and even obviously years and years before that, Irish immigrants came and made this city great, but even to this day, Irish immigrants come and make the city stronger. And what I have found over years and years of working with the Irish community is this extraordinary remembering and this extraordinary sensitivity to immigrants of all kinds because, the Irish knew what it was like to be discriminated against upon arriving here. And I have seen so many Irish-American leaders turn and help the next generation of immigrants, and remember in solidarity what the Irish went through. People who remember and then applied lessons, today and to the next generation, deserve our special praise, because that’s what we wish for this country.

[Applause]

And it’s a reminder to us, we’re in a nation where the issue of immigration again is center stage, and it’s a reminder to us of how we have to tell the stories of our own parents, and grandparents, and great grandparents, to remind people all across America that this is what made us great – to connect all of us to that common link.

Now, in this city we’ve always believed in the power of diversity, in the opportunities for all that New York City has afforded. We believe we are stronger together. In fact, I would argue New York City is a beacon to the world because – get on a subway car or walk down a block, you see all of humanity in one place. And we work it out.

[Applause]

So it’s not in our nature to be divided. Ultimately, New Yorkers are a compassionate and tolerant people. It is in our nature to find a way forward and that’s what happened this year. For two decades and more, we had a blemish on our city. People worked together, they overcame it. They created unity and that unity simply allows everyone to express their true feelings: their love of their heritage. And that’s what’s so powerful about today. It’s going to be a very good day in New York City. It’s going to be a very healing day in New York City because the sum total of it is that people will be able to express their pride – their pride as Irish-Americans, their pride as LGBT Americans, their pride as New Yorkers. People will be able to march together and express their belief in each other. That’s what it comes down to, their belief in each other and our common future.

[Applause]

And one more point, and then I’d like you to hear from two of our honored guests. What a powerful – what a poweful element of this story, that in our hour of need, we sought unity and needed a little more help getting there, the motherland reached over across the seas, and helped us to find our true selves. And that’s an amazing thing. I can’t thank enough, all those here from the Irish government, who helped us to become better and stronger together. And with that, it is my pleasure to introduce Charlie Flanagan, Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Thank you, Minister, for joining us.

[Applause]

[…]

Thank you so much, Minister. Well, we really are honored, all of us, to be in the presence of Senator George Mitchell.

[Applause]

And his own Irish heritage has taught him so much and bonded him to the people of Ireland. He has done so much for this country in so many ways. And if we were to talk about his many achievements in the U.S. Senate, we’d have a whole other reception just to cover that. But, let’s focus on what he did for his ancestral homeland.

And just as I said, the Irish government was there for us here in New York City in our hour of need, George Mitchell was there for the people of Ireland in Ireland’s hour of need. And as the U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, he played an absolutely essential role in bringing peace. His work was crucial to the brokering of the Good Friday agreement, it made possible a whole new reality for Northern Ireland. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Liberty Medal for that work. And I’m going to borrow, Senator, from something you said when you got the Liberty Medal, because it holds true to what we’ve been dealing with in these last few decades here, and so many other issues that we have to confront together. You said, quote, “Sometimes, the mountains seem so high and the rivers so wide that it’s hard to continue the journey. But no matter how bleak the outlook, the search for peace must go on.” Those are true words of wisdom.

[Applause]

And when someone says the search for peace must go on, and because of his own perseverance, his own wisdom, his own strength, he actually showed that you can get to that goal, that you can actually get there together – it is a special honor to be in the company of someone who proved it can be done. Ladies and gentlemen, Senator George Mitchell.

[Applause]

We have a proclamation, since you’re now a New Yorker especially – you have to be designated properly. And today, March 17, is Senator George J. Mitchell Day.

[Applause]

[…]

Sometimes, my good friends, you know when enough’s been said – and that was the final word. Have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day everybody!

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