Discourses

The reality and one of the beauties of America is that your ancestors didn’t have to be born here for you to be as much a part of the country as those whose families came over on the Mayflower or fought the Battle of Bunker Hill.

America was the first nation founded solely on an idea.  This idea transcends ethnicity, race, religion, and locus of birth.  This is the central idea that all human beings are created equal, which Lincoln claimed gives hope to all because it guarantees liberty to all.

So isn’t the project of building a border wall anathema to the beacon of hope that signals to all the world’s poor, tired, and huddled masses of humanity, who yearn for freedom and opportunity?

I for one, am not particularly keen about building this wall.  I doubt that it will make the nation substantially safer, and I don’t think that it will make America stronger or better. But I appreciate that some people do think it will, and I understand that good walls may at times make good neighbors.

The question for us today however is not so much who we will let in and who we will keep out, but who are these people already here who call themselves Americans?  What do Americans stand for?  Do we share a fundamental idea of right and a common cause?

President Trump invoked the central idea of America when he talked about protecting the youngest children of the land, whose lives are in even greater jeopardy today by new legislation in Virginia and New York.

This is a choice Americans have to make, and in making the right choice we will become stronger and better.

The President conveyed this same idea in recounting the story of Judah Samet and his family during World War II.  Having been 10 months in a concentration camp and loaded on a train for transport to Auschwitz, Samet and his family braced themselves for the worst when the train screeched to a halt and a soldier entered their car. But then his father jubilantly cried out: “It’s the Americans!”

This was a choice Americans made on the basis of their dedication to the idea that all human beings are created equal. This is the kind of choice that makes the country and its people safer and stronger and better.

is a Professor of Politics at Villanova University and Co-Director of the Ryan Center for Free Institutions and the Public Good. She has served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She is author of James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government and co-editor of Friends of the Constitution: Writings of the Other Federalists 1787-1788.

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