What do John Kerry, Amy Poehler, and Barack Obama all have in common? For months, they have been the subjects of fierce debates around Mod kitchen tables about prospects for this year’s commencement speaker. Amidst arguments over John Kerry’s alma mater, the significance of My Mother’s Fleabag in Amy Poehler’s success, and the excess of sesquicentennial funds that could bring Obama here (after all, Notre Dame got him, why couldn’t we?), not one single person happened to bring up the name Enda Kenny. When BC recently announced that he would be this year’s commencement speaker, the scramble of smart phones looking up “Enda Kenny” was practically audible across campus. This scrambling was followed by a collective “huh?” as students learned that he is the current Taoiseach of Ireland. Once it was established that the Taoiseach is the Irish equivalent of Prime Minister, students’ extreme discontent began clogging every social media outlet. All hopes of a Mean Girls skit onstage had been dashed, and students were pissed. Who is this man whose name sounds uncomfortably like an elderly grandmother’s, and why should he be our commencement speaker? What does Enda Kenny have to offer us? While he may not be a decorated Vietnam veteran or the first African American president, Mr. Kenny isn’t the worst choice for commencement speaker, either. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. He’s pretty jacked:
In 2003, at the ripe age of 52, Enda climbed all 19,341 feet of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain in the world. He undertook this immense physical effort—which, it has been reported, claims more victims annually than Mount Everest—for the benefit of charities from his hometown. Enda has also completed the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle, a 112-mile biking endeavor along a cluster of the most beautiful attractions in Ireland. Additionally, before his political career took off, Enda played Gaelic football—which is like a combination of (European) football and rugby, but with the added twist of being played by men who have whiskey for blood—for his hometown team. And even while dealing with the worst economy Ireland has seen in decades, Enda still manages to find time to reign as club president of his old team. Priorities, people. Priorities.
2. He’s kind of a badass:
Last Wednesday, Enda was officially excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Enda and government ministers have proposed legislation that would allow for limited access to abortion. Throughout Ireland’s entire existence, abortion has remained illegal, unless, since an amendment passed in 1992, the pregnant woman’s life is in grave danger. Enda’s proposed bill provides, for the first time, a clear framework for what circumstances necessitate such a situation. Because the Catholic Church declares automatic excommunication upon anyone who partakes in formal cooperation with abortion, Enda was promptly banned from the Church. And since 84.2% of Ireland’s citizens are Catholic, this move has made things incredibly awkward for him. But does Enda care? No, because he’s a badass.
3. He’s colorful:
In 1994, three political parties—the Fine Gael, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Left—formed an unlikely coalition government, making it the first time in Irish history that a party had left a governing coalition and joined opposition parties without holding a general election first. Enda, as Fine Gael Chief Whip, was key in the formation of this “Rainbow Coalition,” as it is commonly called. I have no idea why the Irish government was associated with a rainbow in this instance, but I know that Enda had something to do with it, and that makes him cool.
4. He likes to party:
It used to be that Saint Patrick’s Day was a bigger celebration in the United States than in Ireland; Americans were getting drunker than the Irish—the drunkest race on earth—on a holiday dedicated to Irish culture. Enda saw the absurdity of this, and while he was the Minister for Tourism and Trade in 1995, he established the first official Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin. Prior to this, there had been no coordinated celebration in the capital for Ireland’s most famous Patrick (and there are a lot of famous Patricks in Ireland). Because of Enda’s efforts, over a million Dubliners and tourists are able to guzzle Jameson and Guinness for 4 days straight each year, making this Saint Paddy’s festival the biggest in the world.
5. He’s a little bit sexy:
Seriously, have you heard that brogue? Enda could talk about cats and Rosie O’Donnell at commencement and no one would care because that accent is just so damn sexy. Add that to his strawberry blonde locks and devious grin, and Enda has got to be one of the sexiest political leaders in the world right now.
Needless to say, I think that BC students wrote Enda off a little too quickly. He’s a pretty swell dude, and even though Harvard got Oprah, we still have it better than others. Like Mount Ida, our lovely neighbor down the road in Newton, whose commencement speaker will be Setti Warren—the mayor of Newton. So thank you, Enda Kenny, for incidentally reminding us of a great lesson to remember as we graduate: things can always be worse.