Why is the Irish President in Chicago?

He seems to be all over the place.  He was in Cork receiving the freedom of the city.  He was in Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford on Avon...  

"Why on earth  is he over in Chicago?" I woke up wondering on Monday morning.

He's been dedicating a brick.  Not an ordinary brick - a brick that will be placed in a wall.

Many Irish brickies (bricklayers) have done the same. So the President is paying homage to a tradition.  

The contribution of Irish brickies to Chicago is well known - in general.  But the humble emigrant bricklayer deserves to be celebrated.

When I found out where the dedicated brick was going
I wanted to share the story.

President Michael D Higgins knows that in 1994 Adams Brooks 

asked the public to submit names of people they associated with the concept of freedom. He then used those responses in a piece called Freedom Wall, which listed the 70 most-popular entries. The names were painted white on a long, black banner, which still hangs on the side of a brick building in Chicago's River North neighborhood. 

The President knows the names of

Martin Luther King
Abraham Lincoln
Thomas Jefferson
Thurgood Marshall
Jesus Christ
Cesar Chavez
Harriet Tubman
Soujourner Truth
Rosa Parks
Margaret Sanger
Nelson Mandela

They are painted on the Freedom Wall - 325 West Huron Street, near the corner of Franklin Street - among 70 names - a 72 feet high x 15.5 feet wide installation.

The dedicated brick associates Ireland with the freedom movement
- reinforces the association - helps cement Ireland's reputation - helps counteract negative associations.  The President is on a mission. That's his job.

Brand Ireland matters.

It matters for the future of Ireland as a place to do business - obviously.  It matters for the future of Ireland as

  • a place to work & live & die
  • a place to bring up children
  • a place to visit
  • a place to dream of
  • a place for art
  • a place in the imagination of people all over the world.