Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Leader who Inspired - Dr Garret Fitgerald, R.I.P.


Dr Garret Fitgerald, Irish and European Statesman
For some reason I am yet again writing about politics, but only because of circumstance, the recent visits of Queen Elizabeth II and President Barack Obama to our shores and the untimely if synchronicitous (if I may be forgiven for coining this adjective from the substantive "synchronicity" as defined by Carl Gustave Jung) death of our former Taoiseach Dr Garret Fitzgerald at the grand old age of 85.

Dr Fitzgerald has been called a "Renaissance man" by our President Mary McAleese and as possessing a "towering intellect and enthusiasm for life" which will be missed by everybody by our present Taoiseach, Enda KennyKenny went on to opine that the former Taoiseach had an eternal optimism for what could be achieved in politics and that no one could shake him from his belief that politics and democracy would work for peace.  Even the Queen and Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr Cameron were unstinting in their praise for Dr Fitzgerald who is credited as one of the architects of the present peace in Northern Ireland.  In response to his death, the Queen said of Fitzgerald, "I was saddened to hear this morning's news of the death of Garret Fitzgerald, a true statesman. He made a lasting contribution to peace and will be greatly missed."

Prime Minister Cameron's remarks upon the demise of our former Taoiseach were precise and perspicacious, and to my mind summed up the political achievement of Dr. Fitzgerald:

Fitzgerald - Chancellor of the N.U.I.

I watched him as a student of politics, rather than someone involved in politics, and he always struck me as someone who was a statesman as well as a politician, someone who was in politics for all the right reasons, and someone who made a huge contribution to the peace process bringing reconciliation for all that had happened in the past. And I think that today of all days with the state visit and the warm relationship between Britain and Ireland that he can see that some of his work has been completed.
Both these comments were made by the Queen and David Cameron, P.M. while in Ireland on the day of Dr Fitzgerald's death, and indeed the dying man was aware of the important visit of both dignitaries to our shore, and it for this reason that I said in my opening words that our former Taoiseach's death was inspirational in the sense of its sheer synchronicity.  It was almost as if he could die in peace now that a new and deeper relationship has been established between Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

The Celtic Tiger and the Lack of Leadership

It is easy to be wise in hindsight, but many of us here in Ireland did experience a sheer dearth of leadership of a more statesmanlike variety.  The past fifteen or so years under the uninspiring (and one might quite cavalierly and possibly somewhat incorrectly say corrupt, though one would be forgiven for being so harsh given the ineptitude and mismanagement of the economy by these so-called leaders) leadership of Fianna Fáil.  But statesmanship was singularly lacking in the last fifteen years, so much so that the lack has only served to point up the sheer statesmanship of the late Dr. Garret Fitzgerald.  We certainly have had other statesmen in our former taoisigh: Éamon de Valera, Seán Lemass, Jack Lynch, Liam Cosgrave and even John Bruton from both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties.  However, the Fianna Fáil leadership, after these great leaders, was transmogrified into something stagnant and uninspirational at best, and misguided and corrupt at worst.  Thankfully, the electorate in the most recent election was swift and sure in its amputation of this rotten, gangrenous and corrupt limb from the body politic.  As I've said, the outpouring of grief, regret and respect for the late great Dr Garret Fitzgerald only served to point up the ineptitude, misguidance and perhaps corruption of more recent leaders who colluded in the financial downfall of our little island state.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, for whom very few commentators had much to say by way of praise, has filled the lamentable gap in the role of leadership experienced in Irish politics in more recent times. Indeed,  Mr Kenny has proved his detractors wrong as he is quite a brilliant leader who commands the respect of his people.  His sheer integrity, authenticity, sincerity and congruity come across in his bearing and carriage on the international political stage.  He is proving himself to be a statesman as well as a politician.  Well done, Mr. Enda Kenny. 

A Personal Note:

The late great Dr Garret Fitgerald was truly a Renaissance man - cultured, erudite, a Doctor of Economics, a skilled Diplomat, an intellectual who loved statistics, a perspicacious commentator on Irish and international politics, a Europhile, a fluent speaker of French, even if he did speak far too fast in both his native English and in this second language.  He was also a keen and accomplished historian and a particularly good researcher.  However, it was his vision of peace for a broken and suffering Northern Ireland that inspired this constitutional nationalist and that is surely his greatest gift and bequest to the people of Ireland both North and South.  This was the man who described his political objective as the creation of a pluralist Ireland where the northern Protestants of his mother's family tradition and the southern Catholics of his father's could feel equally at home.  I'll quote Queen Elizabeth II again and run the risk of boring my readers, but I feel it is our late great Taoiseach's greatest gift to the peoples of these islands:  "I was saddened to hear this morning's news of the death of Garret Fitzgerald, a true statesman. He made a lasting contribution to peace and will be greatly missed."

Dr. Fitzgerald's daughter Dr Mary Fitzgerald lectured me in English back in the late 1970s.  She possesses a mind similar to her father's - erudite, sophisticated, intellectual and ever so widely read.  She spoke at a velocity equal only to that of her father, and initially we were bowled over by the tornado-like delivery.  When we grew accustomed to her pace and diction, we were awed by yet another "towering intellect."  On a personal note I was lucky also to have attended one of Garret and Joan's theological evenings in the company of the still living great Augustinian Liberal theologian Dr. Gabriel Conor Daly.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal dílis.  Leaba i measc na naomh go raibh aige.  Ní bheidh a leitheid arís ann! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Leader who Inspires

The Obama Factor

President Obama and Taoiseach Kenny today in College Green
In a previous post in these pages I reviewed Deepak Chopra's book on leadership, The Soul of Leadership: Unlocking your potential for Greatness (Rider, 2010) where that author outlines the qualities of Leaders as an acronym of that very word as: Look and Listen, (ii) Emotional Bonding, (iii) Awareness, (iv) Doing, (v) Empowerment, (vi) Responsibility: Responsible leadership means having the courage of one's convictions to "walk the walk as well as talk the talk!" and (vii) S = Synchronicity: This is a hard concept to get one's mind around, and it was one very close to Jung's heart, and one which I discussed in these pages before where I defined synchronicity as the experience of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally inexplicable to the person or persons experiencing them.  All of these qualities Barack Obama has in abundance.

To say President Obama can give a right good speech is an understatement.  I remember listening to President Bill Clinton give an equally powerful speech in the same venue, College Green, way back in 1995.  It is widely admitted that this is the first speech of the Obama campaign for his second term of office as President of the United States.  He pressed all the right buttons and had the throngs of people eating out of his hand from the start.  I viewed the speech on TV and was singularly impressed by the US First citizen, as were the crowds who listened and cheered.

Addressing a crowd of up to 60,000 people at College Green in Dublin early this evening, Mr Obama told his attentive and captivated listeners that never has a nation so small inspired so much in another.  He went on to state to tumultuous applause that "Irish signatures are on our founding documents. Irish blood was spilled on our battlefields. Irish sweat built our great cities"

President Obama signs the visitor's book while wife Michelle looks on!
"When we strove to blot out the stain of slavery and advance the rights of man, we found common cause with your struggles against oppression. Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and our great abolitionist, forged an unlikely friendship right here in Dublin with your great liberator, Daniel O'Connell," he said.

Like PresidentsClinton and J.F.K before him, not to mention Ronald Reagan, Mr Obama is now not just an honorary Irishman but a real one.  To rousing and tumultuous cheers he introduced himself as: “Barack Obama, of the Moneygall O’Bamas. I am here to find the apostrophe that we lost along the way”.  With these words the crowd was his!  This was no mere rhetoric!  No it was really meant as anyone who watched his visit to the little town of Moneygall in County Offaly can attest to.  The hallmark of a true orator is his/her convincing sincerity and humble passion about what he/she is saying.  Real orators are authentic and congruent individuals to use terms used in psychotherapy and counselling.  These qualities are the qualities of such great leaders and orators like Martin Luther King (my favourite orator of all times!), Pope John Paul 1, Bill Clinton, J.F.K. and now the current great leader of the United States of America: the one  and only Barack Obama, of the Moneygall O’Bamas. who was in Ireland  "to find the apostrophe that we lost along the way”.
He thanked the crowd for extending him a warm welcome: "Thank you to the citizens of Dublin and Ireland for the warm and generous hospitality you have shown me and Michelle. It certainly feels like 100,000 welcomes. We feel very much at home. I feel even more at home after that pint I had. I feel even warmer." "In return, let me offer the hearty greetings of tens of millions of Americans who proudly trace their heritage to this small island. They say hello."

Once again as a regular speaker and long time teacher of the Gaelic language I was thrilled at Mr Obama's correct use and wonderfully precise pronunciation of "Is féidir linn," the Irish for his long standing catch-cry "Yes we can!"  In this use of our first language, which itself carries a weight of history, both positive and negative, both profoundly happy and  profoundly sad behind its very words, he was connecting with the historical sense of identity we Irish have.  He also told his listeners in Gaelic: "Tá áthas orm bheith in Éirinn" which translates "I am delighted to be in Ireland."  Like the Queen he won his Irish audience over with what we call the "cúpla focal" or "the few words" of our ancient Gaelic language.

Like all good orators President Obama connected with the crowds swelling the Dublin streets and with all his listeners and viewers in Ireland and indeed abroad.  Admittedly he wishes to kick-start his campaign in hopes of getting a second term in The White House, but no one, not a single soul,  could doubt the sincerity, the integrity, the passion and the authenticity of this wonderful world leader.  As an Irishman I would like to proclaim loud and clear to the citizens of the United States that they possess a great leader and wonderful human being as their head of state.  The world needs such leaders; such strong leaders who can give hope to their hearers; who can inspire their listeners not to give up on their dreams for the future; who can call on all to keep right on going, to persist in their hopes; who can empower others to believe in themselves; who can not only talk the talk but walk the walk and who values commitment to shared values and ideals as being more important than mere worldly acquisitions or wealth.

Finally it was indeed refreshing to see so many young Irish people in College Green to greet the President of the United  States.