Seventy years may be a mere blink in human history, but in the life of an ethnic newspaper it is a very long time indeed. With the issue you’re holding, the Echo marks 70 years of service to Irish America. It is, for us, first and foremost a time to celebrate this important milestone. In doing so, we recall with special gratitude the many before us who worked to forge and maintain the vital link with the Irish-American community that remains so strong today. And we also look ahead — to the next 70 years — with renewed commitment to our readers, present and future, confident that the chain that reaches back to 1928 will stretch far into the future as well.
Like all good newspapers, the Echo takes pride in reporting the news. But the word "reporting" is perhaps too vague, too cold, too emotionless, a description of what we really try to accomplish each week. Yes, we do, strictly speaking, report, and we strive to do so in a fair, thorough and balanced way. But in a deeper sense this newspaper is also a reflection of all the complexities that define our community. Together with you we probe, we question, we debate, we rejoice, we mourn, and, perhaps most of all, we learn and grow.
Growth was the theme of remarks made at the United Nations Monday evening by John Hume, the co-winner with David Trimble of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize. The SDLP leader and his wife, Pat, were the honored guests at the Echo’s 70th anniversary celebration. The Humes, as those who have read this paper for the last, say, 30 years are aware, have been at the forefront of the struggle to bring peace and democracy to Northern Ireland. Indeed, thanks to their tireless efforts, their wisdom and their inspiration, what was once considered among the world’s most intractable conflicts is, it seems, coming to an end, the embattled people of Northern Ireland moving slowly but inexorably toward reconciliation.
"When you have a deeply divided people and at the heart of that division is a distrust and prejudice of centuries, you don’t get rid of that in a week or a fortnight," Hume told the crowd. He said the U.S. is his model for the new Northern Ireland. "E Pluribus Unum," he said, praising this country’s respect for diversity. "From many, we are one."
In introducing Hume, the Irish ambassador to the U.S., Sean O’hUiginn, rightly drew a comparison to another visionary, Abraham Lincoln. O’hUiginn noted that Lincoln once counseled Congress to "think anew, to act anew, to disenthrall." Hume, he noted, has long urged nationalists and unionists alike to disenthrall, that is to liberate their minds from the hate and fear that have divided them.
"We’re living in a much smaller world than their ancestors, a world in which we cannot live apart," Hume said. "Because we Irish have been the biggest wandering people in the world, we can now become one of the most powerful people in the world if we harness the real strength of our diaspora."
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Since 1928, the Echo has been a leading voice of a portion of that diaspora. As an institution, the newspaper has tried to think anew, to act anew, to disenthrall. We have done so because it is the only way forward. Often during our storied history we have led the way; at other times we have wisely followed the lead of others. Through it all we’ve always done what we’ve thought best for Irish America. If 70 years is any indication, we succeed more often than we fail. With luck, will continue to succeed — for another 70 years.