February 24, 2024

Remarks by President Biden Participating in a Community Gathering

Remarks by President Biden Participating in a Community Gathering

The Windsor Bar and Restaurant
Dundalk, County Louth, Republic of Ireland

8:14 P.M. IST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it feels like home.  I said last time I was here, in a sense — and I know why my ancestors and many of your relatives left during the famine and — but, you know, when you’re here, you wonder why anyone would ever want to leave.  No, I mean it.

So it’s good to be back.  And I want to thank another proud son of Louth, the Prime Minister Martin — the guy behind me here.  Now, I met him when he was — when he was the Taoiseach.  And the bad news was — we put him up in a lovely quarters across from the White House, and he had COVID.  (Laughter.)

So the fact — and I’m here with my sister, Valerie, and my youngest son, Hunter Biden.  Stand up, guys.  I’m proud of you.  (Applause.)

And I wish our mom, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, were here today.  She’d be so damn proud.  You know — and she — Louth held such a special place in her heart, and it really did.

And today, we carry her home in our heart.  For real.  We think about her all the time.  And coming here feels like coming home, and it really does.  The way — every time I’ve come, the welcome, the people on the streets.  They’re just so — so gracious to us. 

And earlier today, I had a chance to visit another special place: Carlingford Castle.  High in the hill, the castle that was likely one of the last glimpses that the — that the Finnegan family saw when they set sail for America.  And they set sail with courage and hope, and they crossed the sea.

And — and through generations, the Finnegans brought this island home from Ireland to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where — where we were raised — where I was raised, I should say, and my mother lived.

And as a matter of fact, I’m going to be heading to the other end — the side of the island to the — to Mayo because my — my mother’s — my grandmother’s maiden name was Blewitt.  And the Blewitts are from Mayo.  

And we brought over the — the mayor of Scranton because it’s a sister city to — to Mayo. 

And — but my Grandpa Finnegan would also say — every time we walked out, I — we’d talk about background and heritage, he’d say — he’d go, “Remember, Joey, the best drop of blood in you is Irish.”  (Laughter.)  Oh, you all think I’m kidding?  (Laughter.)  I’m not kidding.  I’m not kidding.  

And he’d never been to Ireland, but he raised his family with a fierce pride in our Irish ancestry — a pride that spoke to the history that binds us and the values that unite us.  And it’s important to remember that it’s the values that unite us.

You know, the values I heard from my mother — she used to say, “Joey, remember, you’re defined by your courage.  You’re defined by your courage, and you’re redeemed by your loyalty.”  That was her code.  “You’re defined by your courage.”  She said, “Without courage, you could never take a chance on just about anything.”

And so, you know, the values that my father, whose saving grace was a quarter of his family was Hanafees from Galway.  That — that had helped.  You know, Biden is English.  I hate to tell you that.  (Laughter.)  I don’t hate to — I’m joking, but it’s true.  (Laughter.)  

And as a matter of a fact, I have a call in to the former ambassador to — from Great Britain to the United States, who was — became a friend — because the British Embassy is alongside the fence that separates the Vice President’s Residence from the British Embassy.  We became friends.  We used to always kid him and talk about how, you know, “Lay off the Irish, man.”  You know, joking with him.

And one day, he said, “Biden is English.”  I said, “No, it’s Dutch.”  I was joking with him.  (Laughter.) 

And to make a long story short: His last tour, he came home to England and, I later — later learned — went to the admiralty to determine — because he knew the name Biden was English.  And he found that my great-great-great-grandfather — I think it was — I was trying to find the book — in 1828 or ’38 — I can’t recall — was a captain in the — in the East Indian Tea Company, and he got them to reprint a book — the admiralty to reprint a book.  He wrote the rules of a mutiny for — (laughter) — no, seriously — for the British Navy.  And there’s a picture of him sitting in his cabin looking very captain-ish with a big British bulldog next to him.  (Laughter.) 

And he gave me the book.  He said, “I don’t want to hear anymore from you.”  (Laughter.)  But anyways.

But all kidding aside, you know, the fact is that, you know, my dad taught us a lot.  And he used to — our dinner table was a place where you accidently sat down to eat and — but it was a place where we had discussions. 

And my dad — our dad worked like hell.  And he’d come from work and then go back at — we’d have dinner at six o’clock.  And it was a place — as I said, we had conversations and incidentally ate.  And then we — he’d go back to work until nine o’clock.  

And — but my dad had this enor- — he was a — really a fine man.  And he talked about the — his favorite word was that “dignity.”  He said, “Everyone — everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity, Joey, and respect no matter what.”  My father would no more walk by the shoeshine guy in the Hotel du Pont than he would walk by the chairman of the board who used to walk by.

So that was my d- — our dad.  And he meant it — everyone.

These are the same values I’ve tried to pass down to my children — my son, Hunter; my deceased son, Beau; my daughter, Ashley — that everyone — everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity.  Everybody.

And they’re the same values I — that we — that — including my granddaughters.  I have — the great thing about granddaughters is they’re crazy about their grandfather.  (Laughter.)  I’ve worked on it from the very — you think I’m joking — I worked on it from the beginning. 

And my number two granddaughter and  — when I walked in — my — she was being born, and Hunt was there and — had just had been born.  We walked into the recovery room, and I said, “What are we going to name her?”  And he said, “Finnegan.”

And I said, “No, what are we going to name her?”  And because — I thought he meant Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden they’re going to name her.  He said, “No, Finnegan.”  I said, “What are we going to call her?”  He said, “Finnegan, Dad!  Finnegan!”  (Laughter.)

Finnegan works for an international company now.  She’s a great kid.

And — but look, the fact is I’ve often said the Irish are the only people in the world, in my view, who actually are nostalgic about the future.  Think about it.  We’re nostalgic about the future.  I think we all are, no matter where we live, if we have Irish blood in us.  

And it’s because more than anything — more than anything in my experience, hope is what beats in the heart of all of people, but particularly in the heart of the Irish. 

Hope.  Every action is about hope.  It can make things better.  And hope that built both our nations and has been passed down, generation to generation, by our families.  And it’s hope that continues to this day.

Nearly 45 years ago, as some of you may remember — none of you women are old enough to know, but some of you men may be (laughter) — 45 years ago, Pope John Paul spoke down the road, quoting St. Patrick.  And the Pope said, and I quote: “‘I have kept the faith.’  And it has been the ambition of the Irish down [through] the centuries… to have kept the faith.”

I think that’s who we are.  We keep the faith.

I’m not talking about religion per se; I’m talking about keeping the faith — the faith in who we are and what we believe and what our values are.

So, my message to you today is quite simple: We have to continue to keep the faith.

Every time I walk out — this is not a joke — walk out of my Grandpa Finnegan’s house up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, he’d yell, “Joey, keep the faith.”  And then I think my — either my uncle or my grandmother would yell, “No, Joey.  Spread it.”  Spread it.

But all together we have to keep working toward a future that’s of greater dignity.  And as we face darkness — and there is darkness we have to face — but we must keep marching forward because the world is a greater — it’s just — the world has such possibilities.

I was with Xi Jinping.  I’ve spent more time with him than any world leader has over the last 10 years.  And over — they keep meticulous count, as the former Taoiseach will know — and over now 87 hours’ worth.

And I was in the Tibetan Plateau with him.  I traveled 17,000 miles with him in China over 10 years.  And he asked me — he said, “Can you define America for me?”  And I could say the same of Ireland.  I said, “Yes I can.”  I said, “In one word: possibilities.”  We believe anything is possible.  Anything is possible.  Anything is possible if we set our mind to it.  That’s who we are.  That’s what we believe, in my view.

So let me close with this.  Around the time Owen Finnegan boarded “the Brothers” bound — the ship, “the Brothers,” bound for America, another shoemaker named Joseph Kearney from Moneygall was leaving — because my great-great-grandfather was a shoemaker — Owen — and he sailed on the “Caroline Reade” and — arriving in American just five weeks before my great-great-grandfather.  And they were both shoemakers.  And it’s doubtful they knew each other.  And they came — they came — they came out of the same port.

And — but one thing we do know: They left everything behind, and — but they had faith.  They had faith in an uncertain future. 

And in all their dreams, I’m not sure they could have
imagined that 175 years later, both their great-great grandsons would be President of the United States of America — Barack Obama and Joe Biden.  But that’s what you breed here: just faith in the possibilities that are out there.

You know, we come from — Valerie and I come from not poor means, but modest means.  We lived in a split-level home in a development of similar homes of 75 homes.  It was a nice neighborhood.  And we had three bedrooms, four kids, and a grandpop living with us.  And — but it was — it was home.

I now look back and wonder how Mom and Dad did that.  But — but the point is that, you know, there’s just — there’s just — we were taught anything is possible.  Anything is possible.

And so, the fact is that — I think possibilities are what we have to be focused on.  And that’s the power of faith.  And that’s the promise of hope.

And so, as my mother would say, “That’s the Irish of it.”  That’s the Irish of it.

Whenever we’d say something was unusual, she said, “Joey, that’s the Irish of it.”  And it is the Irish of it.

I’m so proud to be here, so proud to be in Louth, so proud to be with — I don’t want to ruin their reputation, but — (whispering) — the Kearneys are relatives.  (Laughter.)

We take great faith.

And the closing comment I make: You see this tie I have with this shamrock on it?  This was given to me by one of these guys right here.  He was a hell of a rugby player, and he beat the hell out of the Black and Tans [All Blacks].  Oh, God.  (Laughter.)

But — but it was when you — or it’s Solider Field.  Wasn’t it, the game?

PARTICIPANT:  Chicago.

THE PRESIDENT:  Chicago.  And after it was all over, he gave my brother — allegedly for me, but if it wasn’t, I still took it.  I still got the tie.  I wear it with great pride.

And so, thank you all for the homecoming welcome.  The bad news for all of you is: We’ll be back.  (Laughter.)  There’s no way to keep us out.

But thank you, thank you, thank you.  We love you.  (Applause.)

8:26 P.M. IST

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/04/12/remarks-by-president-biden-participating-in-a-community-gathering/