Irish Gift of the Gab

The Metropolitan Club grand staircase.

The Metropolitan Club grand staircase.

A few weeks ago I got an email — subject line: “Shake Out That Party Dress!” — from Marie McKown, manager of business tourism and Midwest, at Tourism Ireland. I’ve worked closely with Marie for a several years, and she helped me coordinate the details for two wonderful press trips to Ireland. Marie knows that I have a soft spot for all things Irish, being that my husband was born in Dublin, and her email was an invitation for us to attend the Ireland-U.S. Council 51st Annual Dinner at the glamorous and historic Metropolitan Club in New York City, as a guest of Tourism Ireland. Once my husband got wind of the invitation — well, let’s just say we attended last night, with bells on.

We sat at the Tourism Ireland table, where I had the pleasure of meeting Billy Condon, VP marketing for Tourism Ireland in the U.S., as well as other delightful dinner companions affiliated with the tourism board. The dinner honored Congressman Peter King with the Ireland-U.S. Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Thomas J. Moran, chairman, president & CEO of Mutual of America, who received the Award for Outstanding Achievement.

What event organizers and attendees hope for at these kinds of special-event functions is that the honorees’ speeches will be short and sweet. That was not the case for Mr. Moran, who acknowledged himself that he had exceeded his time limit.

The thing is, no one seemed to mind. He didn’t prattle on about his career achievements, he spoke from the heart about his passion: supporting the work of Concern Worldwide, an Ireland-based international organization that works “with the poorest people to transform their lives.” When he shared his experiences sleeping on the ground under a mosquito net or he choked up when talking about meeting a mother in Africa who days earlier had lost two of her children to starvation and disease, it was clear to all of us that it was this successful businessman whose life had been transformed. Getting home a little later than planned — with a full stomach and to a warm bed — I don’t think anyone in the room minded.

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