FW: Pool report #3, March 17, 2015

From: Davis, Julie [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 6:53 PM
To: Velz, Peter; Barnes, Desiree N.
Subject: Pool report #3, March 17, 2015

Pool Report #3, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick’s Day reception and toasts/lid

First, a quick correction to Pool Report #2: It was Representative Patrick McHenry, Republican of North Carolina, who your pool spotted at the luncheon at the Capitol today, not Patrick Henry.

At 4:44 p.m., we were escorted through the North Portico of the White House and into the St. Patrick’s Day reception, where Irish music was playing, green cloths were on the tables and cocktails were being served from bars in the lobby and in the East Room, where your pool had its vantage point for the party.

President Obama appeared in the East Room at 5:35 p.m. with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and the two took their place beside Irish and American flags to exchange toasts.

Obama went first, asking the crowd, “Have you been enjoying yourself too much?” and offering a warm welcome to Kenny and his wife Fionnula. He also acknowledged the American and Irish ambassadors and the “people who do the hard work of waging peace,” Theresa Villiers, the UK’s secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Greg Burton, the U.S. consul-general in Belfast, and Richard Haas.

He credited Burton and Haas for helping bring the Stormont House agreement to fruition and said two others who were supposed to attend the party were home hammering out its implementation details. “We wish them good luck and godspeed so the people of Northern Ireland can finally enjoy the full fruits of a lasting peace.”

“When Irish and Americans get together there’s more than a diplomatic exchange it is a family reunion – literally,” Obama, said calling out “my eighth cousin Henry, who’s become a regular at this party.”

Obama said Irish-Americans are rightly proud of their contributions to the United States. “They persevered. The story of the Irish in America is a story of overcoming hardship and strength and sacrifice and faith and family, and an idea central to St. Patrick himself, faith in the unseen, a belief in something better around the bend. … The Irish did more than help build America, they helped sharpen the idea of America—the notion that no matter who you are or where you come from, what your last name is, in this country, you can make it.”

Obama closed by quoting Yeats: “I have believed the best of every man, and find that to believe is enough to make a bad man show him at his best, or even a good man swing his lantern higher.”

Kenny thanked Obama and called the United States “our most important economic power.” He said he was grateful to Obama “for the work that you are doing to achieve immigration reform, and in particular for the executive actions” announced in November. While the undocumented Irish only represents a “small proportion” of the 11 million, Kenny said, “I can also tell you that almost every family in our country is related to or knows somebody who is caught up in this deeply distressing situation.” He called on Congress to pass of immigration reform “as soon as possible,” to loud applause.

Kenny also thanked Obama for his support in the peace process in Northern Ireland, which he called “still a work in progress.” He said of the Stormont House agreement: “As we have seen in recent days, implementation can always be the hardest part of any agreement,” and he called on leaders involved “to do all that they can to ensure that the current roadblock is overcome, as I’m sure it will be and that the agreement can be implemented in full.”

Kenny presented Obama with the traditional bowl of shamrocks, which he said this year is engraved with a Yeats verse, which he paraphrased as, “Tread softly, for you tread upon our dreams.”

Obama wrapped up by exhorting his guests: “Have fun. Don’t break anything, and you can take the paper napkins but not the cloth ones….I want my security deposit back.”

Spotted at the reception: Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, former Senator Patrick Leahy with his wife and grandson, 17-year-old Rowan Seamus Leahy, who was visiting the White House for the first time; Senator Ed Markey; Congressmen John Larson, Richard Neal, Steny Hoyer, Sean Duffy, Carolyn Maloney, Jim McGovern; AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka.

Pool was escorted out just after 6p.m. and a travel/photo lid was called at 6:08 p.m.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody!

/jhd

Julie Hirschfeld Davis

White House Correspondent

The New York Times

xxx@email.com

(202) xxx-xxx-xxxx mobile

(202) xxx-xxx-xxxx direct

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