President Biden was introduced by Ulster University student Gabrielle Feenan, who described her experience of growing up in the time after the Good Friday agreement.
“My experience of growing up in Northern Ireland has been nothing but positive. From my school days, through university to my entrepreneurial ventures the support and encouragement I have received can only be described as overwhelming. “Notably, I’d like to recognise the continued guidance from Ulster University throughout my endeavours, from the expertise of my lecturers, the direction from the enterprise centre and not to mention the inspirational nature of the university itself. That is something we do best here, the sense of warmth and community is unlike any other and it is what makes our people so unique.”
President Biden made his key address to a gathered audience at his only Northern Ireland engagement and began by thanking Professor Bartholomew:
“Thank you for hosting us today in this beautiful campus of Ulster University. I came here in ’91 to this neighborhood, and you couldn't have had a glass building like this, I don't think it would have stood up very well. Things are changing.”
In a wide ranging speech, he highlighted the future investment of American firms in Northern Ireland and the unprecedented economic opportunity that this presents. He ended his speech by saying:
“So let’s celebrate 25 extraordinary years by recommitting to renewal and repair by making this exceptional peace the birthright of every child in Northern Ireland for all the days to come.”
Vice Chancellor of Ulster University, Professor Paul Bartholomew reflected on the Presidential visit:
“Ulster University and Northern Ireland remains very grateful for, and deeply honoured by, the sustained political and diplomatic support and investment of the United States in the affairs of Northern Ireland. “This new Belfast campus brings 16,000 students and staff from across Northern Ireland and around the world to research and study together the subjects that will shape our tomorrow. A community that used to look inward and backward can now look outward, from this place, and forward to the wider world. This new campus stands as a beacon for aspiration, as an engine of innovation and as a symbol of what has been achieved.”
After the event, Gabrielle Feenan commented:
“The excitement and build up to the event this week has been overwhelming and I’m sure it will take me sometime to process the entire celebration. It has truly been an honour to be part of today and to have the privilege of welcoming the President to my university. “I’m very thankful to the US Consulate and to Ulster University for trusting me to act as a representative of the Good Friday Agreement Generation in what has been an historic milestone for Northern Ireland. It has been an incredibly special day which I will never forget and one I am sure I’ll tell the story of for years to come. “I am excited too, to see how our generation will continue to thrive over the coming 25 years, given the investments and commitments that have been afforded to us because of the Good Friday Agreement. I hope this occasion renews the hope that it brought to the last generation and inspires everyone to believe in the people and place of Northern Ireland.”
The University presented President Biden with an original lithograph of Seamus Heaney by renowned artist and Ulster University Chancellor Colin Davidson. It was made after sittings in Dublin, which also led to a large portrait painting in the collection of the Ulster Museum.