DUBLIN -- Beaming before an exultant sea of people, President Barack Obama reveled in his distant Irish ancestry Monday, offering spirited thanks from tens of millions of Americans who trace connections to Ireland.
Far away from Washington politics, Obama stood with his wife, Michelle, and said: "We feel very much at home."
In a speech devoted as much to personal pride as overt politics, Obama told roughly 30,000 people gathered in central Dublin that he had come to reaffirm "the bonds of affection" between the United States and Ireland. "There's always been a little green behind the red, white and blue," he said to cheers.
Obama's buoyant trip to Ireland, however, was to be even shorter than planned. Concerns over a dense, shifting ash cloud spreading from an Icelandic volcano toward the British Isles prompted him to fly to London yesterday instead of spending the night in Dublin.
Obama is on a six-day, four-country trip in Europe that will involve working with allies on knotty problems of war, peace and economic growth.
His speech came after he had downed a pint of Guinness in tiny Moneygall, the small Irish village where his great-great-great-grandfather once lived and worked as a shoemaker.
The president struck a more serious tone in holding up Ireland as a model by describing its move from violent divisions to what he called a lasting peace on the island.
"Our greatest triumphs in America and Ireland alike are still to come," Obama said. "And Ireland, if anyone ever says otherwise, if anybody ever tells you that your problems are too big, your challenges are too great, that we can't do something, that we shouldn't even try, think about all that we've done together."