In the words of Ronald Reagan, “America’s best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead.” As a progressive, maybe you would think that this statement on the future and hope for our nation would strike a chord with me. Maybe you would agree with him, and maybe you should. But even as a member of the generation that overwhelmingly accepts LGBT rights, the reality of climate change, the importance of education, and the value of community service, I still have doubts. When we as a majority move forward, we should not, and cannot, do so at the expense of a select few. When we turn our backs on those most vulnerable in our society, we turn our backs to America. When we ignore the plight of those who dare to dream the American Dream, when we shut out immigrants and Muslims from our society systematically, not only do we lose touch with our own history, but we endanger our future history.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.
When you hear that nearly half of all Americans have an unfavorable view of Muslims, don’t act surprised. For until you, and all of us, take a true stand against Islamophobia and ignorance, then perhaps our fears, of a society built on prejudice, of a land where all men are not created equal and never can be equal, of a place where fear breeds terror and vice-versa in a never-ending cycle –– will be our new reality. Because we as a nation have let our fears become our reality. Since when did we so carefully pinpoint who we do, and don’t, treat as Americans? Since when did we allow discrimination against a group of our own to become acceptable? And when will we stop treating the hatred and violence against our Muslim brothers and sisters with complacency? In all truth, our collective American history is, at best, ignorant. While this problem is not owned solely by you, you can be the one to solve it. Will you refute the claims made by those selfish few, those lauded heroics, those who profit off of exploiting the masses of untruths and are intent on keeping it that way? Will you change our nation’s dialogue from one of ignorance to one of acceptance? Will you realize the vision Emma Lazarus had for our nation in 1883? Will you make America the “Mother of Exiles”, or will you make this nation the Mother of the Exiled? This letter is not a suggestion, but a plea. Not a hope, but a necessity. And this idea is not foreign, but truly American.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
And so, as I write this letter, you may not understand why you, President of the United States, holder of the highest office in the land, should listen to me, a high school student. I leave you with this –– how much support is there in our country right now to stave off immigration for Muslims? How much controversy was there in you holding this office in terms of the issue of Muslim rights, and the rights of all immigrants? And how much ignorance is rampant in our country when we hear of nearly half of our nation’s citizens believing that Muslims are a threat, while that same proportion claims to have never met a Muslim? Maybe it’s the idealist in me that has come to this conclusion. Perhaps I refuse to look at the realities of the world, and how patterns of discrimination ebb and flow. Or maybe, just maybe, my accusations are with merit. For you of all people should understand how dangerous it can be to set a new precedent for our nation, a precedent based on the rejection of the highest document in our land, the paper that secured our future in 1787. If we are to ignore the principles set forth in the first amendment — if we are to restrict immigration based on religion — then are we to restrict all religion? If we are to restrict those Muslims that so desperately need our support, then why shouldn’t we limit the rights of Jews? Or Catholics? Buddhists? Evangelicals? In truth, any notion of restricting our immigration policies based on religion, race, or geography is not only unjust but un-American. Where would we be without the contributions of those who have fought tooth and nail to share this nation with us? Where would you be without the $743 billion that immigrants provide to our economy? What would happen to your plans for education? Healthcare? Defense? Imagine just how much your plans for our future depend on the future of those who want to become one of us. I urge you to approach this letter with the future in mind. For although I am unsure of our direction, it is you who perhaps has the best grip on our nation’s wheel.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
– Emma Lazarus
Understand that as President, your words matter. Your actions matter. As the figure of our country, you have a voice — a shout really — in determining who we are on the global stage. Rather than closing our borders to all but a select few, it is you that can make America a beacon of hope, a refuge for the wretched refuse, a home for the homeless, and a new start for the tempest-tost. And so I plead that you read this letter not as a recommendation, but a requirement. Not as a paper to be put aside, but as a statement that needs the attention of not only you, but of all of us.