2011-08-25 / Editorial

Scattering Seeds

BY JOHN A. MURPHY

Make an effort to think generously about immigration.

Despite the hardships they faced, persons emigrating to the USA have made enormous contributions to our country and the world. Immigrants have been our country’s greatest strength. Belief in the ability to “make it here” once made America a shining beacon for poor and oppressed people everywhere.

In point of fact, the historic record of U.S. immigration policy and the treatment of immigrants is not good. Hardly ever could it be described accurately as “generous”. Those already here, however briefly, have almost always thrown up barriers against immigrants. Entry restrictions based upon race or ethnicity, blatant bigotry, and open discrimination have been the norms.

Nevertheless, people came; they persevered; they overcame. And our country is stronger for it.

I need only look at my forebears to demonstrate this point. My grandparents lived and worked here in an era when anti- Irish bigotry was open and wide-spread.

My paternal grandfather worked as laborer for a railroad. Yet his son, my father, through the dint of hard work and determination, became a United States Marshal, a lawyer (at age 65!), and a judge. He provided well for his family of six children, and lived a few months short of 100 years of age.

My maternal grandparents both emigrated from Ireland, and worked as servants, while raising a large family in Newport. Despite this limited background, two of their children went to college. My mother became a teacher, her career in education interrupted by her raising six children, and resumed when the youngest was old enough for school. One of my mother’s brothers went to the U.S. Naval Academy, and won the Silver Star at Guadalcanal in 1942. He was killed by enemy shellfire aboard his ship on February 17, 1945, just months before the end of the war. Had he survived the war, he, the son of a onetime house maid, most certainly would have achieved the rank of Admiral.

When I think of these seemingly unlikely accomplishments, I am reminded that we all need to help our fellow human beings achieve their full potential. You never know how great a person can be, if given the chance. It’s in our own self-interest to allow that potential to be realized.

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