majority of Americans trace their family origins to a country other
than the United States. Many immigrants came to this country seeking
greater freedom or an opportunity for a better life. Some came against
their will and were forced to provide labor that helped build the nation.
Immigrants brought with them a pride in their heritage, and distinctive
cultural traditions and values.
So who is an "American"? We all are! As former President
Jimmy Carter said, "We become not a melting pot but a beautiful
mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different
hopes, different dreams."
The Irish, who contribute a large piece to this national mosaic, began
arriving in America during the Colonial Period. They continued coming,
in increasingly large numbers, over the next centuries. As many as 4.5
million Irish arrived in America between 1820 and 1930. In time, the
sum total of Irish-Americans exceeded the entire population of Ireland
and New York City boasted more Irishmen than Dublin, Ireland!
For many Irish immigrants, life in the United States was hard. They
experienced a limited choice of affordable housing, discrimination in
the work force, relegation to the most menial and dangerous jobs, religious
conflict and persecution, and ethnic stereotyping and slurs. Similar
difficulties have been experienced by subsequent waves of newcomers
to the United States.
The Irish established other patterns followed by later immigrant groups,
as well. Many Irish-Americans sent financial support to families remaining
in the homeland and brought additional family members to the United
States over time.
The Irish contributed to the "American culture" in many ways.
They became political and religious leaders. They used their drive and
charm (and their "way with words") to achieve special success
in journalism, entertainment and sports. Popular perceptions of the
fierce Irish temper, introduced such terms as "Donneybrook"
and "Fighting Irish" to the American language.
The Irish who entered the United States from the sixteenth to twentieth
centuries were changed by America, just as they changed this nation.
They achieved lives that would not have been possible in Ireland, supporting
their families and bringing a better life to their fellow Irish in the
United States and in Ireland.
mac Cumhail (Finn MacCoul, Finn MacCool) was the greatest leader
of the Fianna; the military elite of ancient Ireland responsible for
guarding the High King. The Fianna were founded in 300 B.C. by the High
King Fiachadh (fee-a-kuh). Until Fionn mac Cumhail implemented a code
of honor among them, the Fianna had a reputation of being a somewhat
unruly bunch of men who considered themselves, to some small degree,
above the law, due to their position of power. Fionn challenged the
Fianna to become champions of the people; to make of themselves models
of chivalry and justice that others may aspire to. The tales of the
Fianna are argued to be the basis of those of the Knights of the Round
Table of England, with Arthur as their leader as Fionn was leader of
the Fianna. He was also father of the great poet Oisín (o-sheen).
One of the most celebrated characters in Irish mythology, he became
the leading warrior of the Fianna, the band of fierce Leinster warriors.