It was a pot ‘o golden opportunity for Ohio Wesleyan University Professor Sean Kay, Ph.D., who was invited to Washington, D.C., earlier this month to attend a St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House.
While there, Kay also met with several U.S. and Irish leaders and discussed his soon-to-be-released book, “Celtic Revival? The Rise, Fall, and Renewal of Global Ireland.”
“Professionally, the highlight was not only shaking hands with President and Mrs. Obama, but also talking with Vice President Biden and Enda Kenny, the new prime minister of Ireland,” Kay says. “Personally, it was also wonderful in that I was permitted to bring a guest, and I took our 16-year-old daughter, Cria Kay, a junior at Hayes High School.
“It was a great moment as a father to be able to see her meeting people like Joe Biden and chatting away with him and others,” Kay says. “But that said, I think she was especially excited to meet Irish rock star and actor Glen Hansard, star of the movie “Once,” who also sang at the White House event.”
While in Washington from March 16-18, Kay also attended a breakfast meeting that included briefings from Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, the first and second ministers of Northern Ireland, and a reception hosted by the Irish Embassy.
“It was a great chance to discuss my book and to see people whom I had interviewed for it,” Kay says. “It was especially fascinating to meet Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin who was a central figure in the Northern Ireland peace process.”
Kay spent two years researching his new book, which will be published in May by Rowman & Littlefield Inc. The book is especially timely, given Ireland’s virtual economic collapse in 2008 and its ongoing efforts to rebuild and redefine itself in a global context. Ohio Wesleyan will co-host a book-launch event with the Eisenhower Institute in Washington, D.C., as part of an OWU alumni event currently scheduled for June 21.
In the book, Kay writes: “Placed in the perspective of Ireland’s long arch of history, the clear lesson of this story is that the Irish people have taken a major hit with the collapse of the Celtic Tiger and what came after, but the trends over the long run are positive. Ireland is embarking on a renewal, and the quality of the Irish people will stead it well as this country embarks on its million small steps into the future. If we are lucky, what emerges in the years to come from the Celtic revival will be Ireland’s most lasting export to the world in the twenty-first century.”
Still, he says, Ireland’s story provides essential lessons for the world, and the United States in particular, including dire warnings about the impact of Europe’s debt crisis and America’s still-unresolved banking crisis.
Kay will return to the Emerald Isle in August and September during which time he will promote the book and finalize plans for the OWU travel-learning course that he will teach during the Spring 2012 semester. Students enrolled in the course, “Seeing Europe through Ireland’s Eyes,” study the evolution of the Republic of Ireland, including its reaction to the political, economic, and military integration ongoing in modern Europe and its contemporary decision-making on both the national and international issues.
The class will travel to Ireland for two weeks, where students will attend seminars and briefings by senior government officials, academics, and private business leaders in Dublin. Students also will visit Northern Ireland to study the peace-building process.
Read more about OWU’s 2011-12 travel-learning trips, including Kay’s Ireland course.