Honoring Irish Miners in Leadville, Colorado

Senator Michael Bennet
2 min readSep 18, 2023


Remarks at the Leadville Irish Miners’ Memorial Unveiling — As Delivered
September 16, 2023
Leadville North, Colorado

The ambassador has already shared the remarkable history of this place: of the thousands of Irish men and women who escaped famine and poverty to these rugged mountains.

They came here to share in what we think of as the American Dream, in pursuit of a better life for themselves and for their children. And it would be hard to imagine, as we’re sitting here today on this beautiful day — unless you happen to live in Leadville three hundred and sixty-five days a year, as many people here do — how brutal the conditions were that the people faced in the 19th century. The incredibly high elevation that they weren’t used to, ten feet of snow, temperatures often dropping to thirty degrees below zero.

They faced extraordinary discrimination. They faced incredibly dangerous work conditions. They faced meager pay, and many of them died in search of that American Dream.

One of the great privileges of being a United States Senator from Colorado is that you get to travel every single inch of this state. Every mountain pass you go over, every tunnel you go through, every hill that you climb, and every view that you see of a community like Telluride like Silverton, you have the chance to think about the people that came here to settle this place, and the difficult challenges that they faced.

To think about, on top of that, the discrimination that these miners faced, and the knowledge that they had died alone, so far from home. The idea that any of us would be here today remembering them, I’m sure to them, would have seemed completely fanciful; something that could never have been imagined.

It’s a reminder of humanity’s strong bonds — a humanity notwithstanding the difficulty we cause each other.

These miners never let their hardships weaken their resolve. They organized — that’s why so many folks from labor are here today. They worked hard and ultimately, they became woven inextricably into Leadville’s and Colorado’s and our nation’s fabric.

We’re here today to commemorate their fortitude, their legacy, and their example.

We’re here to mark this place in history, not only for those who first came here and their ancestors and their descendants, but for America, herself.

Our character as a nation reveals itself in what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget, and thanks to your efforts — thanks to the efforts of Leadville — future generations will have the opportunity to learn and appreciate the extraordinary history of these people and this place.

Years from now, and centuries from now, Americans will bring their kids and grandkids here and tell them the story of the Irish miner, and their resilience, and their contributions to Colorado and to our country — and they’ll understand something differently about our country in the world as a result of that.