Celebrating the Irish-American Spirit this St. Patrick’s Day

New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul

By Kathy Hochul

This Saint Patrick’s Day is again different than years’ past, but the Irish-American spirit still perseveres.

Although it may not be apparent from my name, I actually was christened Kathleen Mary Courtney, making me the highest Irish-American State elected official in New York.

Just over 100 years ago, my father's parents fled lives surely destined for poverty in County Kerry. From the migrant farms of South Dakota, to domestic servitude in Chicago and finally to a steel plant in Lackawanna, they suffered hardship like millions of immigrants before and after them, but ultimately lived the American dream.

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Looking back, I realize these two barely educated but loving people had a profound impact on my decision to enter public service. I remember as a young girl often walking into their tiny 2-bedroom house where they raised 8 children. The first image I saw on the wall was a picture of Jesus Christ, whose teachings command us to care for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the imprisoned. Next to that picture, placed equally in prominence, was a portrait of John F. Kennedy, the first Irish-American President, who challenged us to ask not what our country can do for us, but ask what we can do for our country.

The juxtaposition of those two pictures showed me that compassionate ​service to others, which my religious beliefs call for, can be accomplished through political leadership. I've often felt a moral obligation to ensure that we lift everyone up, and that no one is left behind, and have had to find a path to enact policies to make that happen.

Those are the values my grandparents and parents lived in, and the countless social causes they were involved in.

Those are the values my mother lived when we opened the Kathleen Mary House, a transitional domestic violence shelter, named for my mother's own mother who suffered abuse.

Those are the values I lived working for the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to help lift people out of poverty.

Those are the values I lived as a Member of Congress fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act, and Medicare for seniors.

And, like all Irishmen and Irishwomen, I’m willing to fight the good fight especially if it's for the people of my beloved State. We certainly have poetry in our hearts, but we are scrappy....we know how to survive adversity, and we never back down from a battle for what is right, even against all odds. We love the underdog, because the Irish have been underestimated and persecuted throughout our history.

I think that sums up what this St. Patrick’s Day is all about. Collectively, we have been through the unthinkable over the past year. To have the strength to move forward, we summon the Irish-American spirit of toughness, perseverance, and resiliency....but always with a twinkle in the eye in search of the brighter days and greener pastures that surely lie ahead.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, my friends. Until we meet again. ​

Kathy Hochul is the 77th lieutenant governor and highest ranking Irish-American elected official in New York State.