Covering the president and discovering my Irish roots
CNN photojournalist Barry Schlegel sits among the cases of television equipment the American TV networks brought to cover the European trip of President Barack Obama.
May 24th, 2011
01:21 PM ET

Covering the president and discovering my Irish roots

DUBLIN (CNN) –In my position as a photojournalist with CNN I have had the opportunity to cover several American presidents. Occasionally I get to go on overseas trips. The arena of world politics is a challenging one, and it’s kind of neat to see how you feel that your "leader" stacks up when they are on the international stage. It’s always a lot of work on these trips, but there is the excitement of being in a foreign country, if only for a brief period.

President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have visited Ireland, and guess what, I came along!  I know, I know!  There’s nothing newsworthy in the presence of one extra camera guy, but you see I’ve NEVER been to Ireland.  Actually, I had been, in the sparkling twinkle in the eye, the humor, and the loving smile of my mother whose maiden name was Creegan. 

Don’t get me wrong; my mom was from a long line of "Yanks", probably in the States since the early 1800s (my great grandfather fought for the Union in the Civil War), but until she married my dad of German decent the Irish had always intermarried.  It seems during childhood I was always around my Irish-American aunts, Ann, Margaret, Mary and Kay.  I was told I was the spitting image of my grandfather Creegan a man who was an accountant for a mining company in the mountains of western Maryland, a man whom I never knew.  We sang Irish songs, and felt ancestral pride in "the Emerald Isle".

So as President Obama celebrates his discovered Irish roots, I’ve gotten a too short chance to celebrate mine as well.  As I covered the President’s speech before a rousing crowd at College Green I think it wasn’t just the bitter wind that caused a tear to well up in my eye, but my own reflections on the shadows of people I never knew, but loved anyhow.

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soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Steve

    Well, being half-Irish makes you one of us, more so than a claim (perhaps spurious?) that one's long, long, long, long, long grandmother was Irish. I wonder if his Great, great, great grand uncle was killed at the battle of Antietam, Maryland as was my Uncle Bernard, age 17, 100% Irish-American* in the Union Army. He was the son of a couple, who came direct from Ireland, who came to this country as a result of a famine in their home country.

    June 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  2. Brian Whelan

    This is a touching story that we hear from time to time and it reminds us Irish how precious our roots are.
    Thank you and all your fellow photographers and journalists for the great coverage President Obama's visit received.
    Brian (Dublin Visitors –

    June 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |