Well, good afternoon, and welcome to the State Department. I came off the injured reserve list – (laughter) – in order to officiate at this ceremony because I could not be more delighted than to make official what is going to be so well received in Ireland and means so much to Americans, not only Irish Americans but all Americans, and that is the swearing-in of our new ambassador to Ireland.
Now, we do have special guests with us, and I thank the Irish chargé d'affaires for being here, Mr. McDaid, and I thank Mrs. Collins for being here as well. Her husband, the ambassador, is in Ireland as we speak. And having Senator Robert Casey, my colleague, here, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder is a special treat.
Now, I’m not sure that we specifically mentioned all of the Rooneys who are here. Please forgive us if we forgot anyone. But this is just a representative sampling of the Rooney family. (Laughter.)
You know, we may be meeting in Washington, but the city at the heart of today’s celebration is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And in recent years, Pittsburgh has staged a remarkable comeback. It has made such great strides in transforming its economy and developing its high-tech sector, and those are accomplishments that led President Obama to select Pittsburgh as the site for the meeting of the G-20 this September.
Pittsburgh is rich in arts and culture, and, of course, it continues to shine in sports. It is, I think, an understatement to say that with the Pittsburgh Penguins winning their third Stanley Cup, and, of course, the Steelers winning the Super Bowl for a record-breaking sixth time, the site of Pittsburgh is not only a great place to showcase business, but also the success of American sports as well. (Applause.)
And today, we are celebrating the man behind the Steelers, one of Pittsburgh’s leading citizens and our next ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Dan Rooney. Ambassador Rooney is assuming this post at a crucial time. Ireland is one of our closest allies. Our countries are connected by political, economic, cultural, and certainly familial ties. And we share a deep and rich history, one that continues today. It is sustained and enhanced by the millions of people in both nations whose family and loved ones live in the other. And I witnessed that firsthand when I marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Pittsburgh last year. I never saw so many people – until, of course, I got to Scranton, Bob. (Laughter.)
Forty million Americans boast Irish heritage, and I expect we have a few in the room today in addition to the Rooneys. And as every American can attest, those of our neighbors and friends who are sons and daughters of Ireland are fiercely proud of their ancestry. And we are so grateful to the Irish immigrants who sweated and sacrificed to build this country and who broke down barriers at every level of society.
The friendship between Ireland and the United States is vital to both of our nations, and President Obama and I are confident that it will deepen with Dan and Patricia Rooney in Dublin. We have a great team here together. This is a partnership. These are civic leaders and successful people who are also lifelong supporters of Ireland.
In the early 1970s, after a trip to Ireland in which Ambassador Rooney saw for himself the destructive effects of deprivation and division, he founded the American Ireland Fund. Today, the Ireland Funds operate in 11 countries worldwide, uniting people of Irish descent to further progress in their ancestral homeland. And as Dan Rooney knows, the children and grandchildren of immigrants often have a deep desire to contribute to the nation where their families got their start.
And so today, Chargé McDaid, we are sending you one of our very best. There is no greater champion of Irish-American relations than Dan Rooney. And in the months ahead, as we work together to address the many challenges we face, from the global economic downturn, to the threat of terrorism, to climate change, to the development of clean energy sources, as well as to our continuing emphasis on the peace process in Northern Ireland, I am confident that with Dan Rooney as our ambassador, our partnership will thrive, and that will benefit Ireland, the United States, and all the world’s people.
So Ambassador Rooney, if you’re ready, I am ready to administer the oath. Please raise your right hand.
(The Oath of Office was administered.)
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