My Bold Irish Roots
We have always found the Irish a bit odd.
They refuse to be English.
I’ve alluded to my Irish heritage in the names of my dogs and references to Michael Flatley, my DNA, and potatoes. There is something special, something unique about the Na hÉireannaigh, the people of Ireland, and my big, bold Irish roots. It seems so fundamental to who I am and how I’m wired. Thus, this chapter begins with a poem that hangs in my hallway.
He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
~ W. B. Yeats
As a third-generation Irish American, the words of Irish poet William Butler Yeats resonate. His poem, however, has a deeper meaning tied to my role as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are dreamers. I was a dreamer. I still dream, for there are visions to chase and catch even in semi-retirement. And with dreams come responsibility. Yes, responsibility. In my experience, dreams are gifts meant to propel us forward — not to be ignored but acted upon.
My rationale is that if the vision appears, it’s an opportunity to ponder, chew on it, and go for it. That is, if intuition and instinct point in that direction. If so, then someway, somehow, an entrepreneur becomes equipped to carry it through. That really is the bottom line of how MedAire came to be. It took a lot of faith and a strong sense that this startup had to be founded, regardless of how impossible it seemed. Perhaps being Irish was part of the equipping, for stubbornness and determination helped facilitate my dreams as well.
There’s another backstory regarding Yeat’s poem. The government of Ireland purchased a Gulfstream jet, and MedAire’s services were included in the sale. I detail this Gulfstream contract in a further chapter but suffice it to say, it was quite an experience to fly to Ireland once a year and train the Irish Air Corps in the management of inflight illness and injury. They were responsible for the defense minister and the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, who served from 1997 to 2011. I was responsible for ensuring they had the medical training needed to perform emergency duties.
MedAire contracted through the defense minister’s office and the colonel who headed the Irish Air Corps. During these training sessions, I became great friends with the officers and other flight crew. After training classes, we’d go to the officer’s mess hall in Baldonnel for a “pint of Guinness.” One year they gave me a paperweight from the hall that still sits on my desk today, a treasured keepsake.