Hi friends. It’s St Patrick’s Day on Tuesday. Delighted that plenty of people the world over will have a laugh with friends and raise a glass to the land of my birth and first 33 years. It’s still home, and I’m lucky enough to get back there with work a couple of times a year.
But I have one request: I’d love to see St Patrick’s Day become known as much for championing human rights, celebrating diversity, and acknowledging how far we have come toward being the beloved community as it is for dyeing rivers green and wearing silly hats. St Patrick’s Day is what you make of it. What I make of it is a moment to remember the vast courage that it takes to call human that which has previously only been disparaged or made less-than. That’s what Patrick did – he treated the Irish as human beings, by considering them worthy of the message and gift he had burning in him. In some senses, he’s the first human rights activist Ireland got to know.
So it’s a beautiful coincidence that one of my human rights heroes, Bayard Rustin, was born on St Patrick’s Day, a little over a hundred years ago. Rustin has had a lower profile than he deserves, but in short, he’s one of the key people who mentored Martin Luther King in nonviolence. Organized the March on Washington. Had a pretty gorgeous singing voice. And was gay. He called people human who were denied their full dignity, and was largely responsible for the event at which the most famous inclusive and hope-filled speech of the twentieth century was given. I think that means he manifested the mission of St Patrick. I’ll raise a glass to Bayard this Tuesday. I won’t be wearing a silly hat, but my eyes will be smiling.