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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The President, the Taoiseach, and the Shamrocks

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PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, happy St. Patrick's Day to everybody.

I want to welcome Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his lovely wife

on their first visit to the White House for this wonderful

St. Patrick's Day tradition.

This is the first for both of us, and with a little bit of

luck, I'm sure we'll get it right.

We are pleased to be joined by a statesman who worked as hard as

anybody to usher in an age of peace in Northern Ireland, and

that is my now Middle East envoy -- because he's a glutton for

punishment -- Senator George Mitchell.

(Applause.)

I am also proud today to announce that I am

naming a great friend, Dan Rooney, co-founder of the

Ireland Fund, unwavering supporter of Irish peace and

culture and education -- not to mention the owner of the Super

Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers -- as the United States

Ambassador to Ireland.

He will be an outstanding representative.

(Applause.)

Just a private note here.

Dan is a great friend.

He and his family are as gracious and thoughtful a group

of people as I know, and so I know that he is just going to do

an outstanding job.

And the people of Ireland I think will benefit greatly from

him representing the United States there.

Now, before I turn it over to the Taoiseach, it turns out that

we have something in common.

He hails from County Offaly.

And it was brought to my attention on the campaign that

my great-great-great grandfather on my mother's side came to

America from a small village in County, as well.

We are still speculating on whether we are related.

(Laughter.)

I do share, though, a deep appreciation for the

remarkable ties between our nations.

I am grateful to him for his leadership of Ireland.

The bond between our countries could not be stronger.

As somebody who comes from Chicago, I know a little bit

about Ireland, and the warmth, the good humor, and the fierce

passion and intelligence of the Irish people is something that

has informed our own culture, as well.

And so that's why this day and this celebration is so

important.

So, with that, what I'd like to do is let Taoiseach say a few

words.

And then I believe he's got something to give me.

(Applause.)

TAOISEACH COWEN: Well, thank you very much

indeed.

Mr. President, Secretary of State, senators, distinguished

members of Congress, members of the Irish delegation, members of

the press, ladies and gentlemen.

First of all, Mary and I would like to thank you, President and

First Lady, for your very warm and gracious welcome to the

White House this morning.

Your invitation to me today and to host this ceremony honors

Ireland and all her people at home and abroad.

And I want to, in the first instance, greatly welcome your

appointment of Dan Rooney and we look forward to Dan and Pat

coming to Ireland.

They will be very welcomed.

They are regular visitors, they know Ireland so well.

And Dan has been a great personal friend of mine down the

years, too, and I really very much welcome his appointment.

And I know how great an honor it is for his family.

(Applause.)

Mr. President, you were saying you were trying to work out

if we're related or not.

I just want to say that I have checked, and unfortunately,

there are no Kearneys on the electoral register anymore in my

electoral district.

(Laughter.) But if there were, I assure you, I'd have them on my

campaign team.

(Laughter.) I hope, of course, some day to reciprocate your

great hospitality by welcoming you and Mrs. Obama to Ireland,

where we will offer you the warmest of Irish welcomes, I can

assure you.

Mr. President, during your election campaign you captivated

the hearts and minds of millions of people.

On the island of Ireland, across Europe, and across the

continent, indeed, your story and your message of hope were

truly inspirational and universal in their appeal.

We offer you our warmest congratulations, our good

wishes, and our steadfast support.

Mr. President, St. Patrick's Day is a time of joy and pride for

all Irish men and women everywhere.

Today when Irish America is bound together by a green thread

woven through the great cities and into the heartland and

length and breadth of this great country, it is a day, too, of

reflection on our immigrant history, of our sense of place

and of our need to connect.

St. Patrick, of course, was an immigrant to our shores.

He brought with him the great gift of faith, and in doing so

he changed our country so much for the better.

The Irish, in turn, brought this message of hope and his values

of generosity around the globe, including to this great nation.

We are proud of our Irish community in America, of how

they have preserved their Irish culture and heritage, and how

they have helped build this great country.

They have lived and worked here, and they have succeeded.

They've enriched Ireland and they have enriched America.

And on this St. Patrick's Day, in these most difficult times,

we remember the enormous trials and deprivations experienced by

our immigrant peoples in times past -- times of poverty,

oppression and famine, and the Troubles on a scale unimaginable

to us today.

Their achievements inspire us with the strength of the human

spirit and the certainty that we will succeed, and that we will

manage our way together to safer and better economic times.

It is my firm conviction that America's leadership, your

leadership, will be at the heart of that global resurgence.

And every country has its own pressures and difficulties; we

must each face up to them, and to our own problems.

But we also have to stand together in partnership.

In Ireland you will find, Mr. President, the most

steadfast of friends.

Time and again in our history, we have looked to America for

leadership on the long and often difficult road to peace.

At the darkest moments, the United States has been a

constant source of hope, a reservoir of support, and a

steady and trusted guide.

The contribution of the United States has been immeasurable.

And some of those who played a central role in our peace

process are with us today, including your Secretary of

State, Hillary Clinton, and, of course, our dear friend, Senator

George Mitchell.

I wish them well in their work for peace in the Middle East.

And I know that their work in Ireland will help to give them

the strength and wisdom they will need in the months and

years ahead.

We all know that the process of peace-building and of

reconciliation takes patience and perseverance.

In recent days, an evil, unrepresentative and tiny

minority has challenged the democratic institutions which we

have built together in Ireland.

The people of Ireland, north and south, have risen to that

challenge.

They have spoken with one voice.

They have rejected violence and division.

They have stood by peace, reconciliation, democracy, and

freedom.

Mr. President, there is a phrase in the Irish language --

"Is féidir linn" -- it may seem familiar.

It translates as "Yes, you can."

(Laughter.)

In that spirit, and in the spirit of friendship

between our two countries, I am pleased to present you this bowl

of Shamrock.

I thank you once more for your kind welcome to the White House,

and I wish a very happy St. Patrick's Day to you, to

your family, and to the American people.

Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, the -- let me try that

again. Is féidir linn?

TAOISEACH COWEN: Is féidir linn.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Is féidir linn.

All right.

I got that.

(Laughter.) Yes, we can.

I want to thank the Taoiseach and the people of Ireland for

this beautiful bowl of shamrocks.

Not only does it symbolize the deep and enduring bond between

our peoples, but it serves as a hopeful reminder that whatever

hardship the winter may bring, the eternal promise of

springtime is always around the corner.

The contributions of the Irish to the American story cannot be

overstated.

Irish signatures are on our founding documents; Irish blood

has been spilled on our battlefields; Irish sweat went

into building our greatest cities.

We are better for their contributions to our democracy,

and we are richer for their art and their literature, their

poetry and their songs.

Rarely in world history has a nation so small had so large an

impact on another.

Tens of millions of Americans trace their roots back to the

Emerald Isles, and on St. Patrick's Day, many millions

more claim to.

(Laughter.) On behalf of them -- (laughter) -- and all Americans,

I thank the Irish people for this gift, and for all that

they've contributed to the chronicles and the character of

America.

And I do want to share briefly a few words about the recent

attacks in Northern Ireland.

Almost 11 years ago, the world watched with wonder as brave men

and women found the courage to see past the scars of

generations of violence and mistrust, and come together

around a future of peace.

We watched with hope as the people of Ireland and Northern

Ireland went to the ballot box and overwhelmingly endorsed such

a peaceful future.

But every peace process is challenged by those who would

seek to destroy it.

And no one ever believed that this extraordinary endeavor

would be any different.

We knew that there would be setbacks; we knew that there

would be false starts.

We knew that the opponents of peace would trot out the same

old tired violence of the past in hopes that this young

agreement would be too fragile to hold.

And the real question was this: When tested, how would the

people of Northern Ireland respond?

Now we know the answer: They responded heroically.

They and their leaders on both sides have condemned this

violence and refrained from the old partisan impulses.

They've shown they judge progress by what you build and

not what you tear down.

And they know that the future is too important to cede to those

who are mired in the past.

The thoughts and prayers of Americans everywhere go out to

the families of the fallen.

And I want everyone listening to know this: The United States

will always stand with those who work towards peace.

After seeing former adversaries mourning and praying and working

together this week, I've never been more confident that peace

will prevail.

Now, today is a day for all the people of America and Ireland to

celebrate our shared history and our shared future with joy and

good cheer.

So I can't think of a better place to take the Taoiseach for

lunch than the Congress.

(Laughter.) We'll be -- (laughter) -- that was good,

wasn't it?

TAOISEACH COWEN: That was good.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You like that?

(Laughter.) We'll be heading there shortly for the annual

Speaker's St. Patrick's Day luncheon -- a tradition in which

Democrats and Republicans put aside partisanship and unite

around one debate only: who is more Irish than whom.

(Laughter.) So I thank the Taoiseach in advance for

bringing relative peace to Washington for at least this

day.

(Laughter.) Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

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