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Reflections on America's Birthday
Mon, 07/06/2009 - 10:56am — Anonymous
With July 4th just behind us, it is appropriate to reflect on the people that make this country so unique and diverse. This year, the U.S. celebrated its 233rd birthday, and while still a young nation in comparison to other nations in the world, we still have a rich history full of stories of courageous people coming to America. 1,000 such people enjoyed the “Hall of Presidents” and a lifelike moving, speaking version of their new commander in chief, President Barack Obama as they were sworn in as citizens at Walt Disney World.
For me, immigration is a personal issue because until a few years ago, my great-grandmother, the first person on my mother’s side to come to the U.S. from Italy was still alive and able to tell her story of the trek across the Atlantic Ocean to Ellis Island. After her death in 2006, I would find the ship manifest with her mother’s information and registration in the Ellis Island archives. Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty have become icons of the heyday of European immigration and millions of Americans flock to these sites every year to learn about why our country looks the way it does today.
However, the face of immigration has greatly changed since my great-grandmother emigrated from Italy in the early 1900’s. Today, rather than my Italian great-grandmother travelling on a boat across the Atlantic, the U.S. is seeing a large number of immigrants from Latin America and from across the Asian continent, as well as an increasing number of refugees from war torn countries. When my family came over from Italy, they were seen as a “problem” and there was much resentment towards them, much as there is today towards today’s new immigrants.
With this Independence Day still in our rearview mirror, I think it is a good time to reflect on this great country of ours, and really think about how much we owe to our ancestors, many of whom risked everything so that we could live the blessed lives we live today. Yes the face may have changed as to who is knocking at our door waiting to be let in, but the sentiment remains the same: hope for a better life and a better future. I hope every July 4th to come will see ceremonies held on “Main Street U.S.A.’s” all over this country, regardless of whether or not it’s in front of a fairy tale castle, and people realize without immigration the United States wouldn’t be what it is today.
James Porter is a Project Assistant for CLINIC
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