Irish American Heritage Month : A Call To Action

A Call To Action

Neil Cosgrove

Brothers as I sit and write this I have just come back from the recent NY State Board Meeting. I must confess that there two items that should be troubling to all Hibernians. First, our worthy National Historian and several of our Brothers have been doing exceptional work in encouraging the perpetuation our noble heritage and the study of history in general in awarding generous prizes for the best National History Day submissions regarding an Irish or Irish American Themed topic.

Sadly, he reported that this year THERE WAS NOT ONE QUALIFYING ENTRY for which to give the AOH prize. Let me repeat that: NATIONALLY, NOT ONE ENTRY WITH AN IRISH OR IRISH AMERICAN THEME. Compound this with the fact that this year’s topic was “Leadership and Legacy”; so this means there was not one entry on Commodore John Barry, Mother Jones,  General Michael Cochran or Lt. Michael P. Murphy.

Secondly, it was reported that there were very few entries for a very generous NY AOH Scholarship that also required a test on Irish and Irish American heritage.

Brothers, this should be a wake up call and a call to action to all of us. Our oath and our Irish values commend us to “keep the tradition alive.” If we are proud of our heritage, we should be talking about it and ensuring it is being kept alive. How sad it would it be if a heritage that has been kept alive through Strongbow, Elizabeth I, Cromwell, the Great Hunger and the Know Nothings should now fade away to die with a whimper. If I can’t move you on emotional terms, what about the pragmatic: where is the next generation of Hibernians coming from if we don’t foster a new generation that values their heritage?

If I can be a bit pedantic, many well meaning Hibernians will refer to March as “Irish American History Month” rather than “Irish American Heritage Month”. There is a big difference between History and Heritage. The dictionary defines History as “the study of past events” while Heritage is “Something that is passed down from preceding generations, an inheritance.” Heritage is history brought to life in the present day and passed on as a gift and inspiration. Make sure that our heritage is an integral part of your Division’s monthly meeting and put “keeping the tradition alive” into practice.  Start now to coordinate an Irish American Heritage Month event in your community for March.

People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.”
-Edmund Burke