This past week I interviewed the former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. She was Ireland’s president from 1997 to 2011, serving the two seven-year terms allowed under Irish law. She happened to succeed another woman president making McAleese the world’s first woman to succeed another as president. Another distinction–she was the first Irish president originally from Northern Ireland.
In fact, it was her family’s experience as Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland that caused them to leave. Her family was the object of sectarian violence there–her father’s bar was bombed and her family’s home machine gunned.
As a result, she selected “Building Bridges” as the theme for her presidency. As president, she not only visited Northern Ireland, she also had people from there make official visits to see her. She’s given much credit for the peace that has ensued. The highlight of this effort to build bridges may have been her invitation to Queen Elizabeth to visit Ireland. The queen accepted the invitation, making her the first British monarch ever to visit the Republic of Ireland.
When McAleese talked about coming to terms with former opponents, she said something that stuck with me: “It’s better to get 90% of something than 100% of nothing.”
I’ve interviewed a lot of people who are noteworthy, accomplished and compelling. What a pleasure it is to interview someone who is also inspiring. If you watch any part of this interview I think you’ll see what I mean.