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“The immigrant who comes here in good faith, becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American. If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn’t doing his part as an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality… We have room for but one soul loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.”
— Theodore Roosevelt, address to the Knights of Columbus at Carnegie Hall in New York (12 October 1915)
We’ve heard conflicting arguments over what America is and who should be welcomed. I think Teddy Roosevelt’s statement makes a compelling case. America is a land of awesome wonders that millions have died for. It is not founded on a single ethnic or religious group, but a founding set of documents. If you swear to be an American, and to uphold the constitution, you are welcome here, no matter where you are from.
But you must be an American. The only way a nation like ours can survive is if we all acknowledge the same American flag and founding. To divide the country into blocs is to risk civil war. Identity politics for one group leads to identity politics for all groups. States will turn on each other, cities would strive against rural areas, etc. There should be no competition with America in the social-political level of loyalty. TR gave this speech at the Knights of Columbus, I’d imagine he’s not telling them to renounce God for America. God is above all countries – we swear the pledge of allegiance to one nation, under God.
In essence, immigrants are welcome to join the United States of America. They just need to leave their hyphens at home.Published in