It was another grand day for the Irish and the annual St. Patrick's Celebration over the weekend.
Crowds lined the street for the annual St. Patrick's Parade, enduring a brisk winter wind. Children kept warm as they crowded in to grab the abundance of candy tossed from people riding in parade units.
The 2014 parade will long be remembered for two young ladies who received proposals from their young men. Josh Danley proposed to Lindsey Doty just prior to the parade and Joe Smith popped the question to Sarah Hohensee in front of the reviewing stand. Lindsey and Sarah both said "yes." (see photo on page 11)
Michelle Mulherin, from Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland, enjoyed the celebration from beginning to end. She and her sister, Grace, were the honored guests of the St. Patrick's Association. This was her first time in the United States for St. Patrick's Day.
"It's great to get such a welcome and to have people who identify with being Irish," said Michelle. "Even for people who have no Irish connection, they're part of it all. That's a very big thing in a global village, to have something celebrated by so many that puts a smile on peoples faces. People want to have a party and it's a worldwide party. It mustn't be half bad to be Irish."
She added, "This is a great celebration of Irishness, which really is an international thing."
Michelle pointed out there are 17 million people around the world who are of Irish descent.
"If you think about it, the Irish are everywhere," she said. "We have made our own mark, despite the fact that we never had an army and were never a major military power. Whatever it is about being Irish that we share is an ability to cope with adversity and have a sense of humor at the end of it all. Hopefully, all this means sharing and caring about community. So whether you have Irish DNA or not, it's really a way of living."
Michelle Mulherin visited with students at West Elementary School and Emmetsburg Catholic School.
"They were all dressed in green and they had really profound questions about leprechauns, consistently across the board. And St. Patrick is apparently a leprechaun," Michelle related. "They asked if I had ever seen a leprechaun. Then a couple of large leprechauns came into the classroom and stole the show."
Michelle and Grace were taken aback by the friendship shown by people in the community.
"Everybody is so nice," Michelle said. "It's really inspiring to see everyone working as a community. We would never have as many shamrocks and it's wouldn't be as glitzy. Everyone is very supportive and friendly and so down to earth and achieving such great things. It's definitely a very pleasant feeling. It's such a wonderful community. It's inspiring to see the warmth that's here."
Reflecting on the achievements of Irish and Irish Americans, Michelle said, "By virtue of so many achievements of Irish Americans, we're really uplifted in Ireland. We only have to go, in recent times, from John F. Kennedy to President Barack Obama's mother. They all have Irish origins and we're really proud of that."
She continued, "We're connected as a nation beyond the island. We are more inspired to achieve what we need to achieve and we definitely needed that inspiration and hope to keep us going in the last few years. Every time we go to the United States of America, we get that hope. Beyond that hope in terms of our economic recovery, Irish businesses and American businesses do business very well. We share so much in common, there's a lot of understanding there already."
With a smile, Michelle drew the conclusion, "We've got Europe over here, we've got the United States over here, and we're right in the middle. So I guess that puts us in the center of civilization of the Western world.
Michelle Mulherin is a Fine Gael member of the Irish Parliament, elected in 2011. She was Mayor of Ballina for 2008/2009. A graduate of UCD and the Law Society of Ireland, she works as a solicitor in Ballina.
"I'm the first female member of Parliament from my own political party in the history of the state that has come out of the county," she said. "I live in the same county, County Mayo, as the Prime Minister."
On St. Patrick's Daly, Michelle Mulherin was in Iowa's capital. She addressed members of the Iowa House and Senate and visited with Iowa Lt. Governor Reynolds. She was also a guest in the Des Moines St. Patrick's Day parade before returning to Ireland today.
"We actually have 17 million people around the world of Irish descent," she stated. "Part of the ability of the Irish to hang on to their culture is the gift of gab, family and staying connected."