As is the case every four years, Irish Americans find themselves facing a difficult decision on election day, November 6.
Once again, there are two candidates with two very different visions for the future of the United States and for Irish-American relations. Between the many attack ads and campaign commercials that seemingly never stop on television, many Irish Americans have probably been left wondering the same question, "which candidate should Irish America stand behind - Governor Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama?"
When one examines each candidate's interaction with Ireland and the Irish-American community and their specific plans, however, the choice becomes much clearer. President Obama is the only candidate who has shown the necessary dedication and hard work needed to ensure a thriving Ireland and prosperous Irish-American relations.
The Obama Administration has also continued to work for peace in Northern Ireland in the same manner that former President Bill Clinton had ten years earlier. Along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama has pledged his support for The International Fund for Ireland, which promotes dialogue and discussion between unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland.
Seeing as Secretary Clinton has promoted peace in Northern Ireland for the last ten years, there is no doubt that this level of support will continue throughout the next Obama administration.
In addition to his foreign policy toward Ireland itself, President Obama can certainly be praised for his efforts to keep America out of additional wars in the Middle East. Irish Americans in the U.S. military have bravely fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but no one wants to see them drawn into yet another conflict. By limiting intervention in Libya and Syria, the president has ensured that American boots will remain on American soil.
There is good reason that when the citizens of the Republic of Ireland were polled as to who they would like to be the next President of the United States they expressed an overwhelming preference for President Obama.
President Obama has also showed his concern for the well being of Ireland by visiting there in May 2011. The visit came in the midst of Ireland's most severe economic difficulties. Aside from meeting with the prime minister, the president gave an uplifting speech to Dubliners, in which he intertwined Gaelic phrases. While one might counter that a speech should not be significant enough to win the vote of a people, the trip shows that the Obama administration took the time to visit a small nation during a pivotal point in its troubles. In contrast, Governor Romney failed to visit Ireland on his European campaign trip back in July of this year. While the governor had kind words for the "special relationship" between the United States and Great Britain he had little to say about the "special relationship" that exists between the more than forty million Irish Americans and their Irish cousins.
The fact that the governor flew over Ireland twice during his brief foray into foreign policy and did not take the time to stay for a few hours and show his concern for the Irish economy and the Irish people speaks volumes as to what four years of a Romney foreign policy would be like.
Aside from that, the Ireland trip also had a deeper meaning for President Obama since he took the opportunity to visit Moneygall - a small village to which he can actually trace one of his ancestors. It is an often overlooked fact that President Obama is himself a member of the Irish American community whose ancestors came here during the famines of the 19th century. The overall message of the president to the Irish people can be summed up in only one line of his, "Your best days are still ahead."
Governor Romney's message is profound silence.
President Obama's domestic policies should be of particular note to Irish Americans. In short, he supports comprehensive immigration reform. Governor Romney does not. Those of us seeking a fair deal for the Irish and an end to the discriminatory preferences in our nation's immigration laws know that only with an Obama victory can we have any chance of correcting the inequities that single out the Irish for harsh treatment.
This nation was, and continues, to be built on the hard work of its immigrants, and that sentiment must always be fostered. President Obama has demonstrated that he still believes in protecting that tradition and does not want to close the U.S. borders to those that through hard work and dedication pursue their own American Dream.
The president has also provided two other very important factors in those American dreams - fair jobs and health benefits. Irish Americans and labor rights have always been intimately tied together in the past, and it still holds true today. Governor Romney would have us believe that America is best served by taking care of the wealthiest. President Obama believes that a strong middle class is best for America's future. He will strengthen workers' rights, not destroy them . As Vice President Biden put it, under President Obama General Motors is alive and well, and Osama Bin Laden is not.
When it comes down to the ballot box on election day, every Irish American has a clear choice in reelecting President Barack Obama. An Irish American himself, he shares our values, those instilled in us from childhood.
We believe in hard work and education and we also believe that each of us has a special responsibility to take care of the poor and dispossessed; so does he. Those values were emphasized when he visited Ireland.
The president has continued the work before him for peace in Northern Ireland, an economically viable Ireland, and a strong middle class at home.
As election day draws closer, the importance of every American's vote cannot be stressed enough, and the voice of every Irish American must be heard. For a brighter future for both Ireland and America it is absolutely essential that our president be reelected.
Brian O'Dwyer is a New York-based attorney, a member of the board of Irish American Democrats, and founder and chairman of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center.