Boston, November 12, 2015 – 1200 guests gathered on Thursday, November 12, for The American Ireland Fund 34th Annual Boston Dinner Gala at the Westin Boston Waterfront. A record-breaking $2.6 million, the largest amount ever achieved at the Boston Gala, was raised for The Worldwide Ireland Funds Promising Ireland Campaign to support nonprofit organizations across the island of Ireland and around the world. The Annual Boston Gala is one of the largest of The Worldwide Ireland Funds’ 100+ international events.
The 2015 Boston Gala was chaired by Mike Mahoney, CEO of Boston Scientific. Vice Chairmen were Andrew Arnott, President and CEO of John Hancock Investments; and Jack Sebastian of Goldman Sachs. In attendance were Senator Edward Markey, Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Marty Walsh and noted business and community leader Jack Connors, among other leading Boston civic, philanthropic and business leaders.
The 2015 Gala honored Anne Finucane, Vice Chairman of Bank of America and National Director of The American Ireland Fund.
Among the highlights of the evening were Dinner Chair Mike Mahoney’s anecdotes relating to his chairmanship and his spirited acknowledgement of the work of Vice Chairmen Andrew Arnott and Jack Sebastian along with the “best Dinner Committee in Boston”, all followed by his announcement of a late fundraising surge that led to the evening’s record-breaking $2.6 million raised.
After dinner, with the confidence of a veteran performer, 10 year old Cian Michael Smith announced, “Hello Boston, I’m Cian Michael Smith of Ballymacarbry, County Waterford… I’m Irish and I’m proud!” Young Smith, a world 12-and-under champion pipes player, then played his Uilleann pipes to the delight of the room which embraced him with a standing ovation.
Next, glowing live tributes of Honoree Anne Finucane from Mayor Marty Walsh, Senator Ed Markey and Governor Charlie Baker were followed by a video tribute with appearances by, among others, Bono and Brian Moynihan, Chairman of BOA. The evening then reached its high point with the remarks of Anne Finucane who weaved narratives of her own family’s immigrant history with those immigrant histories of her good friends Jack Connors, Loretta Brennan Glucksman and Mayor Marty Walsh. She closed with the hope and exhortation that all had an obligation to “pay it forward and do what we can to pay it back”, to certain causes and missions, including Ireland. A warm and sustained standing ovation ensued. Following the ovation, Jack Connors saluted Anne Finucane and presented her with a Waterford bowl.
Vice President of Major Gifts and New England Director Steve Greeley closed the evening by expressing the Fund’s deep appreciation to its donors, guests and Honoree Anne Finucane and encouraged everyone to join popular local Irish band Devri for the post-Dinner celebration.
November 12, 2015
Remarks delivered by Anne Finucane
For each of us here, regardless of our heritage, there is a story that goes back generations and follows a path of sacrifice, suffering – and of great hope, and so often, accrues to the benefit of those that follow.
Here are just a few…………..
In 1871, John O’Connor from Glencar in the north of Kerry walked, for the last time, down his familiar road to the ship that would take him to America. He would land in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, meet and marry Mary Ann Crowley, and work the rest of his days as a fire-man…….the man who cooked the beer – at the Frank James Brewery.
Today, his grandson, Jack Connors, has contributed perhaps more to the legacy of the American Ireland Fund in Boston – and to this city – than any other man I know.
Elsewhere, a Brennan from Donegal, a Campbell from Ulster, a McHugh and then a Murray from Carlow – a diverse group indeed – would all immigrate to America in the 1890s, settle near Scranton, Pennsylvania as coal miners and brewers. Decades later, the beautiful Loretta Brennan, their granddaughter, would marry Lou Glucksman, from an entirely different clan – who, in turn, reintroduced her to her homeland – for the first time – in 1985.
And ever since, her contributions to Ireland have been legendary.
And in 1891, Michael Finucane, at the age of 8, joined his mother, Mary – a widow – and most of his 8 brothers and sisters – on a long and difficult journey from West Cork to America……..all in hope of a better life. They too, like Mr. O’Connor from Glencar, would live in Southern New Hampshire where Michael attended parochial school until the 8th grade, then went to work — ultimately as the foreman in a textile and printing factory. He died at the age of 44, over the Christmas holidays, leaving behind his wife and four children, one with Down Syndrome, and all under the age of 10.
Of course, some of these journeys are more recent. Mayor Marty Walsh’s parents, Mary and John, both emigrated from Ireland in the 1950s – to Dorchester and St. Margaret’s Parish – and where it is reported that they continued to speak Irish at home – which I take to mean either Gaelic or simply long, winding, entertaining stories with no particular beginning or end.
And the last of these, the Governor – Charlie Baker – is a bit less clear. Despite his keen intellect, sharp wit and good look – he puts only a small claim on Ireland – and reports instead to be a bit of everything – so we can all claim him. Political genius.
In each of these stories – and the one each of you know from your own family histories- whatever country your family originally emigrated from— it carries a theme of hope for a better life, an improved future for those that would follow —often challenged by hardships, and fueled by optimism.
And that is what we celebrate tonight – the journey and the future.
I like this word Diaspora.
For any community united by nationality, ethnicity, geography or religion—it provides a sense of belonging. It also recognizes that – for all sorts of reasons- both small and heroic—war, poverty—or simply hope—people take risks, to find something better for all the generations that will follow them.
And nothing- and no one- captures all of this as beautifully – both the suffering and the hope in just a few stanzas – as Seamus Heaney’s poem, The Cure at Troy.
History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme
So hope for a great sea change
On the far side of revenge
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
Tonight’s celebration reminds us that we know each of us has an obligation to both pay it forward, and do what we can to pay it back – to certain causes or mission – and to a country we occasionally visit…….. But, because of the blood that runs through our veins – or perhaps, the freckles on your face – we recognize Ireland as our distant home.
It is my privilege to be part of tonight’s celebration of the American Ireland’s Fund’s mission.