It's one thing to meet a great artist. I've been lucky enough to meet, and interview, quite a few considerable artists, and a handful I would probably describe as great. But it doesn't happen all that often in a life that you meet a great human being.
His family and friends are in mourning for Seamus Heaney, who died in Dublin on August 30. They are joined by a world of acquaintances and admirers, both known and unknown to Heaney himself, whose grieving is for the poet and the man -- if those could be separated.
Today, the Obamas saw a Belfast transformed by two decades of peacemaking which only bore fruit because of the dogged determination of Irish America. President Obama reaffirmed America's commitment to stand with the peacemakers of Belfast as long as we continue to push forward.
For PBS' weekend network show Religion and Ethics Newsweekly I've been reporting on the town's special place in the violent "Troubles" of the past few decades, and in the story of Ulster's peacemaking process that has now largely displaced that violence.
Look at the promotional materials being floated around the U.S. for Stand Off, and you'd think the film was a crime thriller in the Guy Ritchie mold, with Brendan Fraser backed up by Colm Meaney in some heavy badassery. What it turns out to be is an acerbic comedy.
Go and visit Belfast. Yes, you will see the flags and the murals that provide the backdrop to the negative stories that flood the news. But you will not see enough active disagreement to justify the attention these topical issues receive.
On December 12, 2012, two days before the horrific school shootings in Connecticut, two reports were issued that might have merited more media attention and societal concern on both sides of the Atlantic.
One sentence in a recent article in the Economist, on Britain's relationship with the EU, really alarmed me: A "senior Labour figure" saying, "Whatever our position on Europe, we cannot be seen as an anti referendum party." If Labour adheres to that line, the UK could be out of the EU by 2016.