Vail Daily column: What message are we sending?
In 1919, former President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a letter to the president of the American Defense Society about becoming an American. There are several variations of former president’s letter floating about the Internet, but as near as I can confirm, the following is the actual text of that document.
“We should insist that if the immigrant who comes here does in good faith become an American and assimilates himself to us he shall be treated on an exact equality with every one else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin.
“But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American. If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn’t doing his part as an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room for but one sole loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.”
As most of us know, among the requirements to become a naturalized American citizen, immigrants are required to take the following loyalty oath …
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
No one knows whether the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services patterned the loyalty oath on Teddy Roosevelt’s words, but the similarities of tone, intent and meaning are striking.
Contrast the aforementioned to the words of our current president who said in the new immigration video he recently narrated, “It’s not about changing who you are, it’s about adding a new chapter to your journey.” Although no one can know what’s in another man’s heart, one can’t help but draw inferences from Mr. Obama’s first seven words, “It’s not about changing who you are,” and how they reflect his views on what it means to become an American.
The meaning of those first seven words is unmistakable, i.e., that there are no unique characteristics that bind us together as a nation and that immigrants needn’t change their attitudes and beliefs to become American citizens.
Political observer Neil Munro wrote an interesting piece describing how Obama’s message reflects the washed-out understanding of American citizenship, where in many left-leaning precincts, citizenship is little more than a way of getting a more useful passport.
Munro went on to describe what is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the video, i.e., in effect, the president is telling immigrants that America is a happenstance. That we all just happen to be in the same place and our nation is merely is a collection of people living in a distinct geographic location.
Not once during the entire video does Mr. Obama tell these immigrants how very precious American citizenship is or how important it is to their respective futures that they assimilate into our culture.
Teddy Roosevelt understood what it meant to be an American, as has every president who succeeded him. Each understood how important it was for immigrants to learn about their new nation’s history and culture with its many proud traditions, accomplishments and unparalleled generosity.
Immigrants shouldn’t have to abandon their own history and traditions, but at the same time, they need to assimilate and be educated about America’s role in the world. They need to be made aware of how American leadership formed the bulwark against communism for half a century and how innumerable advances in science, technology and medicine would not have taken place but for American initiative.
Immigrants should be presented with the concept that we’re far more than a nation; the United States is also an idea; an idea that has brought more benefit to more people around the world than any nation in recorded history. And what better time to get that message across than in a welcoming video?
Quote of the day: “America is unique; people may dream of moving to Paris for the romance and the food, but they don’t dream of becoming a Frenchman. At the same time, people from around the world don’t just dream of coming to America, they dream of becoming Americans.”—Unknown
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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