John Hume Introduction at Spirit of Ireland Luncheon

It is a distinct honor to have John Hume in San Jose – Silicon Valley. John Hume is a MP, a member of the European Parliament, and the founder of the SDLP. He has been referred to as a one-man think tank, a visionary and a prophet. We all know that the political life expectancy of a prophet is short anywhere, and in Ireland, it can be absolutely evanescent. One of Joyce’s characters in The Dubliners epitomizes this when he says of a leader, now demised: “Sure, we all respect him, now that he’s dead and gone – even the conservatives.” John comes from a corner of that island known as Derry. Another resident of that area, near the site of Leon Uris’ novel Trinity, is the great poet, Seamus Heaney who wrote a poem called the Republic of Conscience that contains these stanzas:

When I landed in the republic of conscience
it was so noiseless when the engines stopped
I could hear a curfew high above the runway.

At immigration, the clerk was an old man
who produced a wallet from his homespun coat
and showed me a photograph of my grandfather.

A republic where

at their inauguration, public leaders
must swear to uphold an unwritten law and weep
to atone for their presumption to hold office –
the old man continued

Their embassies, he said, were everywhere
but operated independently
and no ambassador would ever be relieved.

John Hume has been an ambassador for many years, an ambassador of truth, courage and conscience. As he has worked to bring jobs to Ireland, so too he worked to bring peace and a real repudiation of violence by Sinn Fein and all others. The results, if successful, could result in severe damage to his own Party. He knows that fact well. For to John Hume there is something more important than the next election – it’s called the next generation!

Like few in Irish history, a Daniel O’Connell, a Michael Collins, he has exhibited great moral leadership.

John Hume knows this land very well. He has risked all, even his life, to make Ireland a land of not just saints and scholars, but also of scientists and teachers. The shadow of a gunman, in this new land, will be replaced by the silhouette of a computer; the men and women of peace will be the ones that inherit the earth.

To paraphrase Heaney, John Hume will never have to atone for holding public office, for almost uniquely, he has lived a life of service to his people. He can look into the world’s eye knowing that he is an ambassador of Derry, North Ireland, and Irish men and women everywhere. In fact, he represents all people who value their children’s future more than outdated dogma and an anachronistic past.

He is the best of a spirited, long-ravished, but noble “race”.

It is with great honor that our community gives the spirit of Ireland Award to an AMBASSADOR FOR ALL SEASONS, AN AMBASSADOR THAT WILL NEVER BE RELIEVED – JOHN HUME.

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