In 1999, I actually shook Bill Clinton's hand. Nothing to get excited about, I was part of an invited group of onlookers (the things you do on a Saturday afternoon) and he decided to mingle unexpectedly. He was much smaller than I had imagined, his nose was big and red and I didn't think much of the speech he gave. In fact, I had come to listen to another speaker.
Anyway, I am neither here nor there as regards Bill Clinton.
But when I listened (on the radio) to his eulogy at the funeral of Martin McGuinness a few days ago in Derry, he got to me. It was a moving speech, full of humour and great feeling, personal and honest. Not some scripted garble read from a teleprompter. It's only 11 minutes long but worth listening to. And I couldn't help but compare. With that nasty excuse of a president across the pond. Whom I cannot imagine spending sleepless nights on peace negotiations in a small country across the pond, whom I cannot image to even have respect for someone like Mandela. To work for a future where we need to expand "the definition of ‘us’, and shrink the definition of ‘them'".
For the record: I have never been a friend of Martin McGuinness, have no great sympathies for Sinn Féin or the IRA, be it historic or recent or any of the splinter groups. But I have even less sympathies for the loyalists, the various protestant parties and paramilitary groupings and ancient orders.
Info on strange words in the eulogy:
- Taoiseach (pronounced: teeshock) = prime minister of Ireland
- President Higgins = Michael D. Higgins, current president of Ireland
- Gerry = Gerry Adams president of Sinn Féin, life long companion of Martin McGuinness, both were active leaders of the IRA during the Troubles in Northern Ireland
- First Minister Foster = Arlene Foster, leader of the (protestant) Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland. Both her father and herself as a teenager survived bomb attacks by the IRA.
- What the sitting Taoiseach said in the US = St. Patrick was an immigrant
- Ian Paisley = Protestant religious leader in Northern Ireland, life long active (and vicious) opponent of any peace process in Northern Ireland became friends with Martin McGuinness when they were both elected as leaders of the Northern Ireland government in 2007.
- John Hume = former leader of the Northern Ireland Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), co-recipient of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize.