Submitted by Janet Stone McGuigan, Greenwich Democratic Selectperson
March is here and with it Saint Patrick’s Day! I look forward to the Town’s Parade on March 20. I’ve marched with the scouts a number of times but this will be my first as a Greenwich Selectperson. I’m fortunate to serve Greenwich in this role; it’s one more reason to think I’m blessed with the luck of the Irish.
I have no Irish ancestry, but the Emerald Isle has nevertheless generously, gently rained its blessings on me. I’m happily married to Peter, who shares his Irish name with me — if you want to make his Irish eyes smile, pronounce the “Gu” in McGuigan like Maguire, and the “i” like in wig — and the proud mother of James, born in Dublin and my favorite souvenir from our expat stay there.
The best deal about Saint Patrick’s Day is anyone can choose to be Irish on the day, and why not? The music and food are great and the humor doesn’t stop. It’s a day to celebrate a resilient culture and the contributions its people have made to this country. Perhaps fittingly, it was one of history’s most famous Irish-Americans, John F. Kennedy, who took this tradition to another level with his “ich bin ein Berliner” speech. I’ve admitted I’m not actually Irish, but this speech does strike close to one of my roots. In 1870, my widowed great-great grandmother left Prussia with her stepson and five children, entirely on her own. The narrative goes that she feared her sons – not yet men – would be lost to the war. At more or less her age when she undertook this flight, I’m in awe of the courage she had to summon.
In another letter I may share more of her story, which turned out very well (and inspires me to support fair immigration laws). But in 1870, who knew how things would turn out?
And today, as the world watches the horror unfolding in Ukraine, who knows how things will turn out? Just as everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, and JFK and every free citizen was a Berliner in 1963, now we are all Ukrainian.
Ukraine needs our prayers, and it also needs our purse strings. The human toll from this crisis is going to continue for some time. There are many well-established and reputable humanitarian organizations working on behalf of Ukraine that are ready to take our contributions. Further, the fact that Putin has declared sanctions to be the equivalent of a war declaration means they have had an impact. Americans may feel the pinch at the pump, but the small pain of higher oil prices is worth it. And perhaps motivation for us to truly wear our green and become less dependent on fossil fuels and make much needed investments in renewables.
In closing I will return to Ireland. My family’s years there were incredibly happy, no less because our Irish friends and neighbors were so kind to us. Many had ties to the United States and wanted to return the kindness they received from Americans. Were it not for the power of story, a visitor to Ireland might not suspect the dark history of the Irish Famine, an unnecessary, man-made crisis, and the reason the McGuigans came to the United States. Were it not for the Famine or Franco-Prussian War, my family would not be, but I wouldn’t wish these histories on anyone. I’m heartsick over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and I fervently hope for better days ahead for the Ukrainian people.
Janet Stone McGuigan Member of the Greenwich Board of Selectmen