To listen to President Mary McAleese's address, click here.
To read President Mary McAleese's address, click here.
Oct. 11, 2002Mary McAleese, the President of Ireland, received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University on Friday, Oct. 11, at Mitchell Hall. More than 450 faculty, staff and students attended the noontime ceremony.
|University President David P. Roselle (left), President of Ireland Mary McAleese and Howard E. Cosgrove, chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Inaugurated as the eighth President of Ireland in 1997, McAleese also has served as a delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Trade and Investment in Ireland. A member of the Catholic Church delegation to the 1996 North Commission on Contentious Parades, McAleese was a founding member of the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas.
At the ceremony, University of Delaware President David P. Roselle welcomed McAleese into the ranks of UD alumni, telling her that she is now a Blue Hen.
Roselle also noted that the recognition of McAleese marks a continuation of a UD-Irish connection that began when the Universitys founder, the Rev. Dr. Francis Alison, emigrated from County Donegal to America in 1733.
Considered to be the greatest classical scholar in America in his time, Alison founded the Academy of New London in 1743, to which the University traces its roots.
His first class, which included 10 Irish boys, was a distinguished one, with three future signers of the Declaration of Independence.
A brief clip from a video presentation for the Campaign for Delaware, that recalled Alisons academy and the first class members was shown during the Presidents remarks.
So today, we acknowledge and celebrate our distinguished honoree, President McAleese, our founder Irish-born Francis Alison and the legacy and advancement of international exchange and understanding, Roselle told McAleese.
You are being recognized today, for your continuing lifes work of planting and nurturing seeds of justice, tolerance and understanding. We will all benefit from the harvest they yield now and for generations to come.
In conferring the honorary degree on McAleese, Howard Cosgrove, chairman of UDs Board of Trustees, spoke of her commitment to change that grew out of her childhood in Northern Ireland.
With the eruption of the Troubles in 1968, you and your family experienced firsthand the terrors of riots and intimidation, Cosgrove said. At an early age, both as a Catholic, and, as a woman, you vowed to work for the accomplishment of social inclusion, justice, equality, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation.
Cosgrove noted that McAleeses career as a force for change has included becoming Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin, followed by stint as a current affairs television journalist and in 1994 becoming the first woman and the first Catholic to be appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor of Queens University.
Your career has been one of breaking barriers, Cosgrove said.
This history of barrier breaking began when McAleese entered Queens University of Belfast in 1969, where she graduated in law in 1973, and was called to the Northern Ireland Bar a year later.
I began studying law at a time when females constituted around 10 percent of the students in law schools, McAleese said. Today, women considerably outnumber male law students, just one visible, outward sign of a remarkable revolution in attitudes and expectations.
McAleese noted the sharp contrast between the presentwhere women in law schools outnumber men and often outperform their male peersto the opposition she faced in the 1960s when she announced to her family that she was going to embark on a legal career.
It was at home, in the presence of my parents and our parish priest, McAleese said. His response was immediate and emphatic: You cantyou have two terminal impediments. You are a woman and you have no relatives in the law.
Fortunately, her mother showed the priest the door and told McAleese to ignore such advice. In fairness to the conservative priest, McAleese noted that once she was in law school, he was very supportive and that his views were typical of his times.
Addressing students in the Mitchell Hall audience, McAleese said she would like to be sitting with them, just starting out, free from many of the old encumbrances and prejudices, with their futures before them. She also remembered what it was like when she and her husband, Martin, started their academic careers in a very troubled Northern Ireland.
My husband and I were students together at Queens University in Belfast, a city that began to crumble into 30 years of violence just as we, enthralled and excited, crossed the university threshold for the first time, McAleese said. We were not fully aware of the awesome power of hatred, or of our power as individuals to stop its toxic course through human history.
She also expressed her pride in the political and economic transition that has taken place with her country since the time when she and her husband began their academic careers.
I am very proud to be the president of a small country which within living memory, was a poor Third World country whose greatest export was its people, McAleese said. Today, it is one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, the biggest exporter of computer software and a country to which people now come to seek opportunity, reversing a century and a half of outward migration.
McAleese said that the peace process in Northern Ireland, which the United States helped initiate, is better than anything that came before. She noted, however, that many challenges must be met to make Ireland a truly diversified society that empowers all of its people.
Your generation is nearer to that world than mine, McAleese said. Your choices can bring it nearer or retard it, just as the choices of my generation did.
In closing, McAleese thanked the University and the people of the United States for their long and steady commitment to peace and prosperity in her native county.
She also urged UD students contemplating their futures to heed the words of Irish writer George Bernard Shaw, who said, Other people see things and say: Why
But I dream things that never were and I say: Why not?
The audience responded with a standing ovation.
Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Eric Crossan