The Roads We Travel

A few days in a life journey.

Inauguration 2013: We the People…

Presidential Inauguration 2013

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

Today, I watched the Presidential Inauguration and felt such joy, pride and hope. Not just for myself and my family, but for so many Americans who in the past have been relegated to the sidelines of  our society — minorities, immigrants, same-sex couples, and even those with disabilities. All mentioned in President Barack Obama’s  inauguration speech.


Just earlier this week, I had a conversation with a neighbor who proclaimed there were too many Asian Americans in our community. He said that another neighbor had to move because she was the only one on her street who spoke English. He continued to share that his biggest problem is with Hispanics who are “too lazy” to learn English, and that if they truly wanted to be Americans then they should learn English. He felt that federal tax dollars should not be spent to translate information for government services into Spanish.

Of course, I took issue with everything he was saying. Everything.

For a moment, I was surprised. I’m not sure why because I have had similar conversations with this same neighbor in years past. Also, I have met people with similar prejudicial ideas more than a few times in my life. Then it hit me.

In my quiet moments, in the safety of my loving home and in the ideals of my mind, I forget that not only does this type of prejudice still exist in our nation, but it resides in my community — right down the street. And, while I’m saddened at the thought, I’m also thankful.

Thankful that my neighbor feels comfortable enough expressing his prejudices to me… someone I’m sure he knows is not a sympathetic ear. Thankful that his starkly different views slap me in the face and wake me up to a reminder that our work is not done.

Thankful for a President who has the audacity to hope for something better for ALL Americans and would be Americans.  Thankful for a President who said today,

“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity.”

See, I realize that my neighbor and many like him have never taken the time to get to know someone coming to this country for the first time, trying to make a better life for themselves and their family… and also struggling to learn English as a second language. If he did, he would know that it is certainly not laziness that becomes the barrier to success. Many wake earlier than the sun and work multiple minimum or low wage jobs to provide for their families. They strive for that dream that so many take for granted.

I also realize that it’s not my job to convince him that he’s wrong and I’m right. And while I am baited into the dialogue to express my opinions and strong dissent, it’s not my job to change his mind or enlighten him.

It IS my job to make sure that legislators are elected, at all levels of government, who understand the importance of creating a unified vision for America. One that includes all Americans regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, culture, disability, language, religion, sexual orientation or otherwise.

It IS my job to make sure that I am a part of this dialogue for change, so that when opposing views are expressed, they are not the only ones heard.

It IS my job to make sure that my children learn these lessons not merely from what I say, but also by what I do.

It IS my job to ensure that my children understand how they too can make a difference in this country and in this world.

My heart sank thinking about my neighbor’s comments the other day. Today, my heart soars with hope and progress.  I will keep at the forefront of my mind the President’s words today,

“We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky and happiness for the few.”

God bless you all and God bless the United States of America!


2 Responses

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  1. I agree with you for the most part. But, having been married to a man who came to this country speaking no English as a child, my view on immigrants’ responsibilities changed a bit. HIs family worked hard to become citizens, to learn the language of the country in which they live–and they feel all should do that, regardless of country. I must say, I agree. I think we need to make it easier for immigrants to learn our language. I think we need to rid ourselves of stereotypes such as the lazy Hispanic. But I also think we need to expect others to take responsibility in this country–as we would if we were in a foreign land. Meet in the middle, so to speak.


    January 21, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    • Thanks for your comment. And I agree, we can certainly make it easier to learn English, though it is a tough language to master. I think most people immigrating to this country want to master it, but again it isn’t easy. Also, there is not an official national language in the United States unlike other countries with language requirements. I don’t think we’ll really ever be completely rid of the stereotypes, I guess that’s one of the lessons I learned the other day. They are passed down from one generation to the next, I’m afraid. We can only do our part to pass along lessons of love and inclusion.


      January 21, 2013 at 7:57 pm

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