Mazzuca: Press one for English |

Mazzuca: Press one for English

If it bothers you to press one for English the best advice I can offer is to get used to it because no self-respecting CEO is going to turn away customers because of a language barrier. If it bothers you when retail clerks are unable to help you find a particular brand of toothpaste, athletic socks or flashlight batteries because they don’t understand your query, the best you can do is use a mechanism known as freedom of choice and shop where employees do speak English and are able to assist you.

However, if it bothers you when a U.S. Forest Service employee loses his job as a fire-crew leader because he can’t speak Spanish to the lone member of his crew who can’t speak English, then read on.

The United States embraces more legal immigrants than all the other nations of the world combined. These immigrants arrive speaking many languages and bring with them both varied and rich traditions and customs. Historically, immigrants have integrated into our society and learned the language. As a result, the United States possesses the most remarkable amalgam of cultures on earth. Nevertheless, due to the federal government’s unwillingness to secure our borders, immigration has become the “third rail” of American politics overshadowing the economy, national security, and health care as the most important issue facing us.

If we are to successfully address the current situation, all Americans must come to the realization that the most solemn responsibility of government ” and in particular, that of the president of the United States ” is to preserve the character of this nation and its people, which is why any hint of a bilingual society distresses millions of voters.

Bilingualism may be a blessing for the individual, but it’s a bane for society. The histories of bilingual societies are histories of turmoil. Cyprus, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Canada/Quebec, the former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union have all faced (and sometimes succumbed to) crises of national existence or had minorities press for autonomy or compete separation.

When Wal-Mart announces, “Special de hoy; jcomprar tres tomates y conseguir uno libre!” over its public address system they’re simply providing a service to their customers. But when government prints ballots and drivers’ license exams in Spanish it goes far beyond “providing a service” to a narrow segment of society; it sends an unequivocal message that it’s OK for Spanish-speaking people not to assimilate and learn English.

All of our presidential candidates extol their bona fides to occupy the White House, but as the old saw tells us, “actions speak louder than words,” so I thought it beneficial to examine the respective positions of the candidates’ regarding English as the official language of government.

Polling indicates that 84 percent of all Americans favor making English our “official” language; yet in May of 2006 when a Senate roll call vote was taken, 33 senators, including three current presidential candidates, senators Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, all voted no to the measure. Sen. John McCain was among the 64 senators voting yes, while Sen. Chris Dodd was among the three who abstained.

More recently, during the recent CNN presidential debates, Wolf Blitzer asked each of the presidential candidates “Do you object to making English the official language of government?” Former democratic Sen. Mike Gavel of Alaska and all of the Republican candidates said they did not object.

Several candidates equivocated; referring to English as the “national language,” but their parsing of words was little more than pandering to the Hispanic vote. Referring to English as the “national” language as if it was the same as being the “official” language of government is patently dishonest because the two are light years apart in meaning and consequence.

This commentary is not intended to endorse or attack any particular candidate, but Sen. Clinton’s statement epitomizes the problem, to wit: “If we make English the ‘official’ language of government in a place like New York City, then we can’t print ballots in any other languages.” (

Would someone please tell me, aside from increasing the likelihood of voter fraud or pandering to a particular demographic, how the American people benefit by printing drivers’ license exams and ballots in Spanish?

If an individual wants to speak Spanish or Russian or Klingon for that matter, God bless them. However, government must have an official language ” “The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities. We have but one flag. We must also learn one language and that language is English.” ” President Theodore Roosevelt.

Perhaps then, before committing to a particular candidate, we should first ask them to define how they intend to “Preserve the character of this nation and its people.” And what better way to demonstrate their intentions than by focusing on the immigration issue and proactively leading the effort to make English the official language of the U.S. government?

Quote of the day: “Nations are far more fragile than their citizens realize. History has demonstrated repeatedly that no nation can survive the tension, conflict and antagonism of competing languages.” ” Former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm.

Butch Mazzuca is a business consultant and writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at

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