As we celebrate Independence Day, I’m reminded of the principles I was brought up believing in and taught in the various public schools I attended. Some people would describe it as the “American Dream”. As a child of the 1980’s, I was brought up believing America always has been and always will be the great melting pot, a multicultural haven where citizens could flee to and fight for prosperity. America strove to be a just, fair and equal-opportunity nation. Everyone in America had a right to a public education. Everyone had the right to use hard work and smarts to get ahead. America was described as a place with enough room for everybody in our history books; a superior nation where culture and talent fused together for innovation (although sometimes after a few stumbling blocks along the way.)
Lately, the so-called “patriot movement” has produced some startling backlash towards immigrants who have crossed the border illegally. This isn’t the first time (nor will it be the last ) in American history that an influx of immigrants faced violent backlash. (I guess it takes a while for all those cultures and backgrounds to melt in that proverbial melting pot.)
Perhaps it’s time for us to remember it was America that told the rest of the world about the America Dream, and the promise of freedom, and yes, even the “exceptionalism” (such as pioneering innovations in science, math, medicine, and technology) that such a melting pot produces.
Who are we to tell dreamers in other countries that the American Dream isn’t for outsiders? Isn’t that what was supposed to be exceptional about America to begin with?
Certainly John F. Kennedy seemed to think so when he spoke to the Anti-Defamation League in 1963 and proudly told us: “The flames kindled on the 4th of July 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them.”
Watch the full speech below.
Happy Independence Day!