“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” ~ Emma Lazarus
These words printed at the base of the Statue of Liberty testify to the kind of America that I am proud to call my home. These are the American ideals of love, compassion and generosity, for which my parents and so many immigrants like them choose to raise their family in this nation.
America is a nation that, as Professor Akbar Ahmed of the American University said during the recent Global Peace Leadership Conference, whose “divine compulsion is love.” He said that, “although we face so many challenges in today’s world, love must be the principle that guides us.” While no nation is without flaw, the founding ideals upon which this nation was built provides the potential to continue to make America great.
While my experience as the child of immigrants by no means makes me a rarity, I think it does add a unique dimension to my relationship with this nation. Growing up in the Midwest, I feel like I grew up with an uncanny love for all things “American.” Baseball, apple pie, the great outdoors and American football are things that are ingrained in me. However, beyond the tangible things, it was always the warm and loving Midwestern character that I embraced the most.
I occasionally encountered people that excluded me because I looked different, or because I ate different foods. Yet beyond the minority of less accepting individuals, it was the acceptance that I experienced that makes me swell with pride to be an American.
In his documentary book titled Journey into America, Professor Ahmed explores “the bridges that bring us together, not the things that divide us.” He focused on the ideals and principles that connect Americans to one another. A love for God, a love of freedom, a love for fellow human beings and the love for the natural world are all a part of what makes the tapestry of American history and character so unique and rich. It is this principle of love and compassion that America needs to reconnect to.
My parents, like Prof. Ahmed believe that a love for God and a love for humanity are what add to the richness of America, and that it is love that drives America to continue to be great. It is the potential of this nation that continues to deepen my love for America. We do have our fair share of challenges in our efforts to provide solace to America and the world’s tired and poor populations. But beyond the walls of politics, religious beliefs, if we remain rooted in love and maintain a moral high ground deeply-rooted in a love for God and for country, America can once again “become one of the greatest nations in the world.”
Like Akbar Ahmed and the leaders present at the Global Peace Leadership Conference, I believe the only way to truly address these challenges is to embrace the ideals and principles that this nation was built on. Gratitude and compassion, but most of all it is love that must inspire America to create one family under God.
In the Declaration of Independence, it states that, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is a deep sense of pride and gratitude for these founding ideals of this nation that motivate me to want to do more. Not just be a great individual for America’s sake but for the sake of the greater human family around the world.
M.C.I is a blogger for the Global Peace Foundation
Watch Ambassador Akbar Ahmed’s address at the Global Peace Leadership Conference 2013, held in Arlington, VA, USA.