1964. That was the year my grandparents, with their one-year-old daughter and another on the way, came to the United States. A nation that was still mourning a loss of President - one with great hopes and dreams. A superpower challenged abroad, while racial tensions and economic disparity at home seemed to bring about another civil war. My grandfather could have had a better life in Zaire, or even Haiti, as a technocrat. Why did he choose this country? 

My grandparents tried to provide the best for their children, though 1960s & 70s Brooklyn was very different than today's hipsteristic atmosphere. (Not to mention sending their children to boarding school in, of all places, Haiti!) For them, like so many immigrants and refugees, America was a land of opportunity. A land of great promise. In an era of dictatorships, U.S.A. was the torchbearer of the 'free world'. That tall, statuesque woman nestled in New York Harbor, who once greeted immigrants from Europe, stood more than a symbol - she represented a guarantee for many who desired to start anew.

Paul Stahr's depiction of Columbia, the personification of the United States, reaching out her arms to the world's tired, poor and huddled masses. 

Paul Stahr's depiction of Columbia, the personification of the United States, reaching out her arms to the world's tired, poor and huddled masses. 

This country, born by immigrants seeking refuge from religious oppression and desiring political and economic stability, were unaware of what experiment they were to begin. Unaware they were to lay the foundation of a glorious enterprise. Unaware of the destiny for millions - willing and, sadly, unwilling - to take part in creating this land of opportunity. And from it birthed the American Dream. A dream that is not always fulfilled, but something that is much higher than ourselves. 

Despite its faults and failures, historically and contemporary, America has and will be the land of glory. Where the children and grandchildren of immigrants can get a free education, a hot meal, and continue to make it in the world. Our 44th and, interestingly, 45th American Presidents are a testament to that promise. 

America has born great leaders as well as great thinkers, educators, social activists, and more. When we forget our past, we forget the path we are going. And more and more, we have lost all hope of continuing this great experiment which began 410 years ago. We've become so divided on issues, closed ourselves from others' opinions, that we forget our differences allows us to continue the American experience. Those of different color, cultures and creeds, of diverse sexual, gender, and political identities, is what makes this country. Respecting the dignities and lives of our fellow countrymen is what makes this country beautiful, allowing us to live and prosper is what makes us great. 

We as a nation have fallen on the ground. All that is left to do is pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and never give up our inalienable rights of 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'  

 

XoXo,

Ortensia

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