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Former Rutgers Law School Dean John J. Farmer Jr. leads the Newark St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Former Rutgers Law School Dean John J. Farmer Jr. credited the sacrifices of his grandparents and parents for paving the way to his success in his remarks as the Grand Marshall of the 81st St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Newark.

Farmer recalled how three of his grandparents were immigrants from Ireland who endured several hardships, from being quarantined on Ellis Island to serving in World War I as a soldier and prisoner of war.

“This year’s parade honors their sacrifice, and the sacrifice made by so many of our relatives and ancestors in leaving their homeland to make a new life in America,” he said. “What made them heroes was the willingness to sacrifice themselves for their family’s future.”

Farmer, who earned both his bachelor’s and law degrees from Georgetown University, has worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and as New Jersey’s Attorney General and served as the senior counsel and team leader for the 9/11 Commission. He also was the dean of Rutgers Law School in 2009, before taking a position as the senior vice president and university counsel in 2013. Starting in 2014, he returned as University Professor and special counsel to the president at Rutgers.

Farmer, who was joined by city, county, and state officials at the parade on Friday, March 11, spoke little of his own accomplishments, but instead devoted his remarks to the struggles and survival of Irish Americans over the last 100 years.

“Their sacrifice did not end with their arrival in this country,” he said. “The American dream was a dream deferred. This was the era of ‘No Irish Need Apply’ bigotry. Many Americans believed that my family’s religious faith – Roman Catholicism – was incompatible with American democracy.”

Farmer also pointed out that his grandparents survived the flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression, and World War II. He spoke of his father, John J. Farmer Sr., being drafted to serve in the Korean War.

“Like Irish independence, the American dream was built on the willingness of our ancestors to sacrifice their present for our future,” he said. “They have given us opportunities they could not even have imagined.”

The parade kicked off at 1 p.m. and was dedicated to James P. “The Skipper” Hamilton and it commemorated the Centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising. Barbara A. Lyons served as the Deputy Grand Marshal. The dignitaries and honored guests who attended included Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, former Gov. Jim McGreevey, state Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin, Essex County Clerk Christopher J. Durkin, several county freeholders, and previous grand marshals, among others.

The Skipper's grandson plays a tune he wrote for his late grandfather.