BELFAST, Northern Ireland—From bringing out his guitar and breaking into song inside an Irish pub to marveling at Belfast's still-rising waterfront development, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley says he's been overwhelmed by his two-day, whirlwind Irish tour with President Clinton.
"What strikes you is just how small this island is," O'Malley said yesterday. "You see all the players gathered in one place."
On Tuesday, he met poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney in Dublin and a huge crowd that waited for Clinton in Dundalk, even managing to hand out to kids the latest CD of his band, O'Malley's March.
"It was a tremendously emotional experience as an Irish-American to see all the hope in the faces of the young people," O'Malley said of the crowd that greeted Clinton in Dundalk.
O'Malley even got to sing a few songs with the likes of former New York Gov. Hugh Carey in a Dundalk pub. He played Elvis Costello's "Long Journey Home," which has a chorus that links America and Ireland through the colors of their flags: "Red, white and blue, green, white and gold."
Yesterday, he listened as Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed Vital Voices, a conference of Northern Irish women raising their voices for peace and prosperity.
"It was a higher level of intellectual discourse than we heard throughout the entire presidential campaign," he said.
Belfast impressed O'Malley as "a pretty city; it's clean, too." He was delighted to hear that local leaders involved in waterfront development said they were inspired by Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
O'Malley said Baltimore could learn much from Belfast and Northern Ireland.
"When you look at how much these people have done to overcome violence and division, it makes you look at Baltimore's problems and crime rates and divisions as more manageable," he said. "If they can do it in Northern Ireland, it is achievable for us."
What souvenir will he bring back? "A lot of hope for the future."