On my way to my parents this week, I stopped at the assisted living facility outside New Haven where my father’s two sisters each have apartments. I don’t see my aunts as much as I used to and have wonderful memories of times spent with them as I grew up.
My Aunt Anne, 97, and my Aunt Lillian, 91, give bear hugs that seem to melt the world’s problems away. They are always interested in family news, and always full of advice.
And as often the case, they always seemed less judgmental than my parents, because, well, they weren’t my parents. It’s wonderful to see my father, 86, with his sisters, who tease their kid brother as if he were young, and he dishes it right back to them.
Watching President Obama’s speech to the nation about immigration last night, I thought about my aunts and father, and their parents, my grandparents. Immigrants who arrived in the United States via Ellis Island, escaping the pogroms of Tsarist Russia, they created a life for themselves. From their union, there are 55 descendents now—and there will be more with each generation. We represent the gamut of professions: lawyers, scientists, engineers, teachers, librarians, farmers, business owners, therapists, musicians, writers and a doctor. There’s a bunch in college now, figuring out what they want to do, and a gaggle of little ones who’ll find their way in time.
I thought also of a woman I’ve begun interviewing in my new role as a personal historian. An Auschwitz survivor, she came to the United States in 1948, wanting only to become American.
President Obama captured these aspirations of immigrants and our commitment to welcome people who want to strive and contribute to our nation as our relatives have done.
…Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society…
…We have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations…
…My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers, who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will…
I was infuriated that CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox didn’t interrupt their programming to air the President’s speech. They should be ashamed to call themselves news organizations. I wish there was some punishment for the blatant disrespect they showed not only President Obama but also the office itself. Let’s hope our new immigrants embrace the history, civics, and values our nation represents; not those dictated by companies driven by ratings and advertising.