Yesterday was a pretty big occasion. In fact the entire capital city was brought to its knees (albeit for just a few hours) while the most important man in the world* came to town.
The President of the United States (or PROTUS as he’s abbreviated on Twitter) was attending the G8 summit in Fermanagh, but chose to deliver a speech to a bunged-to-the-rafters Waterfront Hall ahead of his meeting with the other important men of the world (and the only woman in the G8, who holds the purse strings, of course).
He talked about the peace process, the American love of Ireland, the young people are the future; the usual topics in his usual charismatic and passionate way - surpassed only by the presidents depicted in blockbuster movies like Independence Day.
And then he did something extraordinary. He mentioned one woman. A woman who leads one organisation. A small organisation in the grand scheme of things. And named one of their many projects, which is one of many MANY projects that take place each and every year across the city. In his address, President Obama said:
“Sylvia Gordon is the director of an organization called Groundwork Northern Ireland, which aims to bring about change from the ground up. As someone who got my start as a community organizer, this is something I appreciate. A few years ago, Sylvia visited the U.S. to learn more about how Americans organize to improve their communities.
After she came home, Sylvia rolled up her sleeves here in Belfast – and decided to do something about Alexandra Park. Some of you may know this park. For years, it was thought to be the only park in Europe still divided by a wall. Sylvia and her colleagues knew how hard it would be to do anything about a peace wall, but they reached out to the police and the Department of Justice anyway.
They brought together people from across the community anyway. Together, they all decided build a gate to open that wall. And now, people can walk freely through the park and enjoy the sun – when it comes out – just like people do every day in other parts of the world.
As long as more walls still stand, we will need more Sylvias. We will need more of you – young people who imagine the world as it should be, and bring a community together to make it happen – who make even the small impossibilities a shining example of what’s possible.
That, more than anything, will shape what Northern Ireland looks like 15 years from now and beyond.”
The mouths of PRO’s across the land dropped to the floor as Groundwork NI achieved what many an agency, lobbyist, even celebrity has not. The most important man in the world* brought the work of this not-for-profit organisation into every living room/car/office and became the talk of the media far and wide.
Clearly, public relations had no hand in writing the speech as Ms Gordon herself explained later that she did not expect to be singled out. But obviously everyone involved in their good work will be very glad that it happened.
Because the outcome was the stuff PR dreams are made of!
*Arguably the most important man in the world.