SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

March 20, 2014

Newburyport plays prominent role in Obama speech

NEWBURYPORT — St. Patrick’s Day is over, but this one will be one for Newburyport to remember — it’s the only Irish immigrant city in the nation singled out by President Obama in his St. Patrick’s Day address.

At an event at the White House on Friday — three days prior to the actual date of St. Patrick’s Day — the president briefly highlighted the Irish-Americans’ experience there.

Discussing the value of upward mobility, Obama said that the Irish who arrived in this country worked hard for a better life.

“And eventually that is what happened,” the president said in a speech to a large audience that included Vice President Joseph Biden, Taoiseach Enda Kenny of Ireland, legislative officials and other national leaders.

“In Newburyport, Massachusetts, in the early 20th century, two-thirds of Irish-Americans were members of the working class, just one-third in the middle class. But if you looked at the third generation alone — the grandchildren of Irish immigrants — the numbers were reversed. A majority had broken into the middle class,” Obama said.

Obama added, “So, the American Dream has always been the Irish-American Dream.”

Newburyport was the only city mentioned in the address.

One possible explanation for the city being singled out is the unusually extensive data on Newburyport from the early to mid-1900s, data that is unmatched by any other city in the nation.

From 1930 to 1935, residents of the city took part in an exhaustive anthropological study known as the Clipper City Project.

Led by Harvard anthropology professor W. Lloyd Warner, the first-of-its-kind study brought 30 researchers to Newburyport to study socioeconomics and ethnicity.

The results were published in five volumes, which are considered to be the most comprehensive study of its type ever conducted in an American city.

Obama’s mention of Newburyport was brief but served as an example of immigration success.

In his speech, the president went on to discuss this nation’s “broken immigration system” and urged leaders to produce legislation that will provide continued opportunity to those who want to come here from other countries.

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