DUBLIN — This semester, I am studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland at Trinity College in the city center. Since I arrived I’ve had the opportunity to learn a bit about Irish history, events and people that are as integral to Irish culture as the founding fathers are to ours.
And yet, as influential and important as these historical figures are, I, as an American, have never even heard their names. One such figure who comes up in nearly every discussion of Irish history is Robert Emmet.
Emmet, born in 1778, was raised on the stories of the American Revolution, and this spurred his life in the direction of his own revolution. In 1803, he planned a nearly foolproof rebellion in the hopes of making the Irish people a free nation.
Unfortunately for Emmet, although the plan is still described as one of the best-thought-out plans in history, a series of mishaps led to failure. Emmet was forced into hiding and was only captured when he risked exposure to the authorities by returning to Dublin to visit his longtime sweetheart Sarah Curran.
Emmet is most famous not just for his attempt at revolution but for his devotion and strength of character. At his execution he is noted to have said, “[Let] my tomb remain uninscribed, and my memory in oblivion, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written.”
It is difficult for me to be audience to such conviction and passion and not ask the question, where are my generation’s Robert Emmets? What is our great and noble cause? What are we fighting for?
And the sad answer is that we do not have a cause or a hero to win us one. Unfortunately, this is not for lack of problems. Indeed, I am sure any person could think of a dozen horrible issues that need attention. The problem is that no one wants to take responsibility for the solutions that we so desperately need.
We think that by ignoring the issues, or by throwing money at them, they will go away and it will be easier for us to justify complaining about losing Internet for a day or Facebook changing its layout again. What sad little things to concern ourselves with.
So it is our challenge to step up and claim our time. We must not let ourselves be known as the generation without a cause. We must go back to that mindset of grandeur and circumstance: that all people have the ability and the responsibility to evoke change and to better the world in which we live.
People do not talk in those terms anymore, and it is such a shame that we have let ourselves be prodded and packaged into neat little groups of complacent bystanders to atrocity and unfairness.
So I challenge you. Stand up. Do not let the fear of laughter stop you from championing your beliefs, “for ‘tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings” and it is through you that we will be remembered.
For good or bad, through war or peaceful protests, it is we who have the power to shape our world.