Hollywood on the Potomac
St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny (The Prime Minister of Ireland) has come and gone, but for the 33.3 Americans of Irish descent that live in the US, the spirit lives on.
“We’ve had a wonderful, exhilarating day. The sun is shining. Every door has been opened to us in Washington, and the welcome could not have been warmer,” said The Ambassador of Ireland Anne Anderson at a reception in honor of An Taoiseach and Mrs. Kenny at the historic Willard Hotel on St. Patrick’s Day.
“I think you all know the Taoiseach’s CV already: His four decades in political life. His extensive experience as minister. His leadership of his party since 2002. Of course, what is most important is the Taoiseach’s leadership of the country over the past four years – such an extraordinary journey, and the unique, extraordinary relationship between our two great countries.”
Mr. Kenny is proud of the growth of his country and pointed out the differences that have occurred over the past four years. “Let me say to you I came here to Washington just over four years ago when our country was in a very bad situation economically. We were blocked out of the markets, the banks had gone over the edge, we lost 300,000 thousand jobs, immigration was hemorrhaging our system, and we’d lost our integrity and our credibility. That’s all in the past. It was a difficult time. We made difficult decisions. Because of the sacrifice of the people, we’re now in a better place. We’re actually in a situation where unemployment is falling from 15% down to 10%. Exports are booming. Investment is very strong in the country. Irish companies are being set up that are growing globally and exporting, which is great. We’ve had almost 90,000 new jobs created in the last 3 1/2 years, expecting to get 40,000 more jobs.”
James Addison Baker III defines charisma – a personal magic of leadership. The former Chief of Staff to President Ronald Reagan who accidentally worked his way up the political food chain is the subject of a PBS documentary that airs on March 24th: James Baker: The Man Who Made Washington Work narrated by Tom Brokaw. It explores his life and long political career; a remarkably savvy power player, deal-maker and diplomat respected on both sides of the aisle for his ability to get things done.
John Hesse explained the making of a consummate statesman: “I think the birth of his children and the death of his first wife was certainly part of his growth as a lawyer and his career here in Houston. That was before he got into politics. I think that whole experience probably showed or brought forth his strength in being able to endure and pull through something that was obviously very traumatic. He explains himself that it was a very hard time for him. As he put it, if there was ever a time he was going to ‘twist off’ as he says, that would’ve been it. But fortunately, I think the support of in particular his good friend George H. W. Bush helped refocus him. I think that was a turning point in his life. It launched him into another career that he had not anticipated and I think really set the path to the future that we know now was pretty historic.”
A little background: “Baker’s first wife, the former Mary Stuart McHenry, was active in the Republican Party working on the Congressional campaigns of George H. W. Bush. Originally, Baker had been a Democrat but too busy trying to succeed in a competitive law firm to worry about politics and considered himself apolitical. His wife’s influence led Baker to politics and the Republican Party. He was a regular tennis partner of George H. W. Bush at the Houston Country Club in the late 1950s. When Bush, Sr. decided to vacate his Congressional seat and run for the US Senate in 1969, he supported Baker’s decision to run for the Congressional seat he was vacating. However, Baker changed his mind about running for Congress when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer; she died in February 1970,” according to Wikipedia.
“I grew up in upstate New York – what I would just call a typical family, like from the Ken Burns series,” author Ann Atkins told Hollywood on the Potomac. “We were the ones that went west with the little travel trailer to go see a national park at Yellowstone, that kind of thing. My parents were just the traditional type. They were supportive of me, but still with the constraints of that day. You know, you can’t go out to play with all these other boys unless there’s other girls there too…..that kind of thing. I thought it was weird.”
“Then when I was in high school, which was in the ’70s, that’s when girls were really breaking out and by heavens we weren’t going to be just teachers or nurses anymore. We were going to be accountants and go after any of those traditional male fields. For me, I was going to be an accountant which, if anybody had really talked to me or if I’d had any self-awareness, would have been a totally ridiculous idea because I don’t care about numbers,” she added.