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Strength in Unity: Our Shared DNA

Diversity & Inclusion Perspectives Caroline M. Hennessy

I had my DNA tested. Spoiler alert: I'm 94 percent Irish. This is not a shocker to anyone who knows me as I possess what most would see as stereotypical Irish characteristics: humor, warmth, fair skin, freckles, spirited, and yes, I've been told I have the gift of the gab.

But neither DNA nor stereotypes define who I am. Nature vs. nurture, right?

March is Irish-American Heritage Month, when we celebrate the achievements and contributions made to American culture by persons of Irish heritage. March is also Women's History Month, a time set aside to celebrate the vital role of women in American history. This month’s dual focus has me thinking about the significance of these two forces in my life and how fortunate I am to benefit from both.

By far the most significant influence on who I am is my mother who I always saw as an incredibly strong woman with a loving heart. She was kind and bold, hilarious and smart.

I didn’t realize it until after she passed away, but her true gift was compassion. She was the personification of selflessness and she embodied what it meant to be of service. She wasn’t sitting on community boards or donating money -- we didn't have any. She gave of herself fully to those around her. Only now am I realizing the significance of her gift to me and everyone close to her. She went out of her way to make everyone feel special and welcomed.

Another gift she gave me was introducing me to the Irish American Heritage Center where she spent countless evenings, taking her great granddaughter to and from Irish dance lessons. I have the honor of being invited to serve on the Center's Irish American Hall of Fame Committee. (Truth be told, I badgered them until they gave me a seat. Another Irish gift: tenacity!)

The Committee is dedicated to honoring the significant contributions of Irish Americans to arts and humanities, business and industry, public service, sports, religion, education and science in America. Serving on this committee has crystallized for me what it means to be connected by a shared history. Through my interactions with the members and friends of the Center, I feel the intense pride and unwavering commitment of this close-knit community to preserve the culture and the rich history of the Irish. Supporters come from all over the city – all over the world – to enjoy the Center.

You don’t need to be Irish to feel the love. We welcome everyone!

As much as I take pride in being Irish and a woman, my joy comes from that which feeds my soul. What feeds my soul? Being part of a community with a shared vision, with people willing to work together toward a common goal. I'm certain this same pride and commitment is what binds communities, regardless of what unites them, be it heritage, religious beliefs, sports teams or deeply cherished causes.

As we celebrate what makes us each unique, let’s also embrace our shared humanity. In the words of the Irish: Ní neart go cur le chéile – There’s no strength without unity.

Do you have a community that feeds your soul?

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Caroline M. Hennessy is Quarles & Brady's Senior Manager of Digital Marketing & PR