Flames of The Torch

Among those in attendance at Gerry Adams’ visit to St. John’s University was St. John’s president, the Rev. Father Donald J. Harrington, C.M. When asked if he was concerned about bringing Adams, who is rumored to be a former member of the Irish Republican Army despite his insistence that he was never a member, Harrington said, “I think its always important to look at who a person is today and many different paths can bring someone to that position. Gerry Adams now is clearly recognized as a peace maker, someone who’s had a great impact within Ireland and indeed around the world in terms of peace.

That’s what we have to focus on. Everyone of us goes through different stages of our lives and thank God that people don’t judge us by what we were 10, 20, 30 years ago.”

The attitude adopted by Harrington in allowing Adams to speak at St. John’s is exactly the kind of progressive outlook an academic university should practice. Thank God the university was able to look past Adams’ alleged links to Irish terrorism for the sake of allowing one of the world’s great peace advocates to share his experiences in politics and social conflict.

Adams was able to not only share the knowledge he has obtained as the president of Sinn Fein and a lifetime Irish rights activist, but provided universal advice for St. John’s students dealing with conflict, no matter what the avenue.

“The most important element of a peace process is dialogue,” Adams said. “Conflicts always have a cause, and they arise mostly from people being treated unjustly or feeling that they’re being treated unjustly.”

In the fashion of St. John’s Vincentian code, Adams defended the impoverished, depleted underdog in Ireland and abroad.

“Over one billion people live on less that one dollar per day,” Adams said. “Eleven million children die from curable and preventable diseases that we have the cure to. They would only cost us maybe 40 to 50 cents.”

Adams wishes to provide Ireland with a united economy and universal healthcare, to avoid the kinds of problems associated with the impoverished in capitalists societies.

But even more Christian, and substantially more impressive, is his understanding of his opponents. Adams was repeatedly asked about positions held by his opponents in Britain, the United States, and Ireland, and always responded with a tolerant “That’s their position.”

“It’s easy to demonize the other side, we all do it,” Adams said. “It’s easy to stigmatize your opponents.”

Harrington commented on Adams’ speech, making mention of a particularly impressive passage from his speech. “He related that peace requires the presence of justice and justice requires inclusivity,” Harrington said. “What a great lesson, not just for every city, every nation or every state but for every community no matter how small that community is. That clearly applies to us as a university community.”

For this reason and more, Adams was the perfect choice for St. John’s. As an established champion of the underdog, an advocate for minorities, and a defender of peace, Adams perfectly reflected the Catholic mission in message.

When asked why he visited St. John’s, he responded, “Why not St. John’s?”

Just as freedom-loving Irishman are lucky to have Adams head the independence movement, St. John’s is lucky that Adams chose St. John’s.