Tom O’Neill Receives Honorary Degree
This past week, I had the honor of delivering the commencement address for the University of Ulster-Magee Campus in Derry, Northern Ireland. As I received my honorary degree and addressed the graduates, I was humbled and reminded of the incredible contributions that this university and its faculty and students have made to the peace and reconciliation process for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s and the Republic’s model of peace is a blueprint to rebuild civil society and life after a conflict. Whether we travel to the Balkans or to Africa or to the Middle East, what Northern Ireland and the Republic have done is the world’s preeminent case study for peace. This process has changed the lives of millions and needs to be kept on track.
In my remarks, I issued a call to action that I believe rings true for everyone, no matter where you are from or where you are headed; I challenge you, as I challenged these University of Ulster graduates, to ensure fairness in this society where you live and work, so that opportunities abound for all our citizens. The march towards dignity and equality for all people requires perseverance and permanent vigilance. It is not a task for the faint of heart.
Just last week, we witnessed the rewards that can come from this determination in the United States. On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage by a 5-to-4 vote. This landmark decision marked a momentous step forward for the LGBT community and its allies. However, it does not signify an end, but rather the beginning of a new phase in the journey towards civil rights. Just as in the Irish peace and reconciliation process, there is still work to be done.
My father was a man who had dreams of a public nature for issues of equality, rights, and justice. He was a man who really knew himself: he loved his God, his family, his school, his community and where he came from – his country and Ireland. All of Ireland. One of his great heroes was John Hume, a man 25 years his junior who brought to the U.S. Congress his message of peace for Ireland.
Men like my father and John Hume changed the world – but they did not let the world change them. We must remain steadfast in our resolve and in our permanent vigilance as we continue to make progress towards a more peaceful and equitable society.
Chief Executive Officer