"I rely on myself"
A major element to the Irish American Link Conference will be commemoration of the life, career and family history of Governor Hugh Carey. The conference will also feature lectures on the contribution of Hugh Carey to the political life of Ireland and the U.S. This will culminate with the unveiling of a plaque in Milltown, Co Galway, from where his antecedents emigrated to the United States.
Hugh Carey was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1919. He received his bachelor's degree in 1942 and his law degree in 1951 from St. John's University. He also served with the U.S. Army in WWII, seeing action in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, and was present at the liberation of prisoners from Nordhausen (Mittelbau-Dora) concentration camp. By the time he was discharged from service in 1946, he was a lieutenant colonel, wearing the Bronze Star, the Croix de Guerre with Silver Star and a Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Carey, a Democrat, was a seven term Congressman in United States House of Representatives from 1960 to 1974. He was first elected Governor of New York in 1974 and re-elected in 1978. He was the first Democrat re-elected Governor for 40 years.
Hugh Carey accomplished many things in office, though is probably best remembered for his masterful handling of New York City's economic crisis of the late 1970s. Upon taking office, with New York City close to bankruptcy, he famously declared "the days of wine and roses are over." Prospects for recovery did not seem good. A famous New York Daily News headline encapsulated the mood when President Gerald Ford said he would veto any federal bail-out for New York City - "Ford to New York: Drop Dead". Carey reduced capital gains and corporate taxes significantly, and also capped income tax. His administration also offered tax credits to encourage new investment. His management of New York's fiscal crisis is now being cited as a good example of how to manage a severe economic recession.
Much to his credit, he showed vision and leadership by instigating innovative community based programs for the treatment and care of developmentally challenged people which were very much ahead of their time.
Along with Irish-American politicians Senators Ted Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan and U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill, Carey was known as one of "The Four Horsemen". They were leaders in efforts to end the violence in Northern Ireland and support peace in the region at a time when this was not a fashionable cause for U.S. politicians.
Governor Carey actively sought to foster beneficial links between Ireland and the U.S. His interest in golf resulted in his hosting of the biennial Carey Challenge Cup, a Walker Cup style event between the leading amateur golfers of the Metropolitan Golf Association (NY) and the Golfing Union of Ireland, featuring four-ball, foursomes, and singles matches. He sought to maintain and grow commerce between the two countries and saw the competition as the ideal means of encouraging goodwill and sportsmanship.
He was once quoted by a reporter - “A mentor long departed told me that the greatest gift in political life, in any life, is to view yourself objectively, at arm’s length, to make an assessment of yourself. So whom do I rely on? I rely on myself.”
Hugh Carey passed away on August 7, 2011, at his home in Shelter Island, New York, with his funeral Mass taking place at St. Patrick's Cathedral.