Trinity Lecturer Provides Taoiseach’s Gift for President Obama

Posted on: 25 May 2011

A Trinity academic was responsible for the gift presented to President Barak Obama by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny of a book of Hawaiian children’s stories by Irish author Pádraic Colum during the President’s visit to Ireland.

Dr Pádraic Whyte, School of English, had the idea that a first edition of Pádraic Colum’s children’s stories At the Gateways of the Day should be presented to the President. He secured a first edition and contacted the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, who passed the idea to the Taoiseach.

In 1922 the Hawaiian Legislature commissioned Pádraic Colum to collect myths and legends from Hawaii and write them as children’s stories. They would be used in Hawaiian schools to provide children with a background to Hawaiian folk traditions. The result was three volumes of ‘Tales and Legends of Hawaii’: At the Gateways of the Day (1924), The Bright Islands (1925) and Legends of Hawaii (1937).

Book and case
The Book of Hawaiian children’s stories by Irish author Pádraic Colum which was presented to President Obama by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

With the assistance of TCD Librarian Robin Adams and Keeper of Conservation Susie Bioletti, the Preservation and Conservation Department of Trinity College Library provided a custom-made conservation slipcase for the book presented to President Obama. The slipcase was covered in a hand-made marbled paper, patterned in green and gold, and the book was covered in a protective wrap. This work was undertaken by Trinity College Library Heritage Council Ireland Conservation Intern Brannah Mackenzie, under the direction of Senior Conservator Ray Jordan.

Dr Whyte, Lecturer in Children’s Literature and Co-director of the MPhil in Children’s Literature, met President and Mrs Obama at College Green who said the book was a beautiful gift, which would be treasured by their girls Malia and Sasha. Commenting on the significance of the gift Dr Whyte said that: “In a global culture, Colum’s work reminds us to tell our children about the myths that unite us rather than the stories that divide us. This gift is for the Obama children so that they can appreciate the stories from their father’s place of birth. Myths not only explain where we have come from, but can also guide us to where we want to go.”

“Giving the President this gift highlights many key issues such as the strong links between Ireland and the US; the mutual benefits that can result from working together; Dublin as a UNESCO city of literature; the study of children’s literature in Trinity College, for example Trinity’s Pollard Collection of Children’s Books, and the MPhil programme in Children’s Literature at the School of English; and the importance we Irish place on children’s literature,” he added.