We are all DREAMers

September 8th, 2017

My hometown of Pittsburgh, PA is defined geographically by ethnic neighborhoods. There is Polish Hill, South Side, Squirrel Hill, Bloomfield, The Hill District and more. Between 1870-1920, immigrants found work in the steel mills and factories, bringing their traditions with them. German, Italian, Jewish, Polish, Slavic, Scotch-Irish, African-American... together they forged a city for all. As a kid, I experienced a bit of each culture without even always knowing the distinct history. I just knew this is what we do in Pittsburgh, home of the Steelers and jazz.

Moving to Nashville for college was culture shock. Before becoming “It City”, Nashville was the proverbial Southern town…mostly white and clearly segregated. I’m proud of how our city has evolved. Currently, Metro Nashville Public Schools, the 42nd largest district in the U.S., serves 86,000 students who speak over 120 different languages. When I drop off my son at his middle school each morning, I see kids with beautiful shades of skin. Each one unique, yet each one the same…an amazing yet awkward middle school kid learning to navigate life.

Diversity is part of our common American experience.

The President’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program grieves me. From Horatio Alger to Mark Twain, from John Steinbeck to Amy Tan, our American story has been one of opportunity despite adversity, one in which education and perseverance are supposed to lead to success. When I use the word 'success,' I mean being able to provide a safe and stable home for our families and make a positive contribution to our larger community. We are all DREAMers. How does Trump’s decision impact the human spirit?

In a meeting yesterday morning with a leading female entrepreneur in Nashville, the topic of DACA came up. “This is the time for compassion,” she said. I knew that she considered compassion an action verb.

What does compassionate action look like?

  1.  Stay informed. Research to get to the real story. Don’t just believe what you see posted on social media.
  2. Dialogue. Talk with people, even those who may not share the same opinions about the issues facing us.
  3. Get involved. Whether you choose to tutor at a local school, march at a protest, lend your professional services to relief agencies… do something to serve those in need.

We must be intentional about including our kids in our plan for compassionate action. As Margaret Mead said, “Children must be taught how to think not what to think.” They often have surprising and delightful insights. As we drove to school this morning and talked about DACA, my eleven-year old summarized the situation, “Here’s what I think…it doesn’t matter where you were. It matters where you’re going.” 

Keep in mind the words of the well-known children’s Sunday School song: “Red and yellow, black and white…we are precious in His sight.” We are all immigrants, sojourning on earth for a short time. Let’s choose to Love In A Big World!

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