America is not a country, she is an idea. And we can make her anything we want.
America was built on a foundation of ideas, and not mere geography. One idea in particular: the idea called freedom.
People flocked to America in the 20th century — from all over the world — fleeing repression, oppression, regression and totalitarian dictators. They arrived throughout the 20th Century through what we now refer to as Ellis Island, in New York. They arrived by the multitudes; with little to no money, sketchy documentation, emotional stories, and big dreams. They came from around the world, but mostly from Western and Eastern Europe. These were the immigrants of 20th Century America.
I often will ask friends, and even nice strangers I meet, ‘where are you from?’ Often when those I speak with are say Caucasian American, they will say ‘…I’m are from Virginia,’ or ‘my family is from Kentucky,’ or ‘we come from Pennsylvania.’
In response, I will often say ‘no, I meant where is your family FROM?’ They will more often than not simply repeat where they were born or grew up, thinking that I did not hear or understand them. Or maybe where their father or mother’s parents came from — say Texas, or Michigan. And then I say this — ‘how about Britain? Or is it Germany? Or somewhere else in Western Europe?’ Almost always, they don’t know.
They simply have failed to go back two or three generations in their own family history, to truly understand their own ‘origins.’ Often when they do, I get an excited call — and they get something interesting to talk about over dinner with their extended family. Their own immigrant experience.
And all of this is before we even get to the issue of individual human DNA, your mind-blowing personal DNA test results (you are likely of ‘mixed race,’ as am I), and the fact that 99.9% of all human DNA is precisely the same. Precisely, the same.
The truth is, we are all immigrants. All but Native American Indians and African-Americans. Native Americans have always been here, and African-Americans — well let’s just say that we got on the wrong boat. But that is a story for another day.
America is the only country in the world comprised of every race of people in the world. Such is the power of freedom.
But here is the most important point here — these immigrants — from all over the world — are in fact the groups that are driving and powering the largest economy on the planet.
According to Fortune magazine, 40% of the Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
Diversity is now, and has always been a business case. The largest economy in the world is the United States of America. The two largest economies in the United States, are California and New York. The two most diverse places in the United States, are California and New York.
And then you have our local economies, and jobs. Anyone who believes that products made in say Kentucky, are purchased mostly in say in Seattle ~ are for the most part mistaken. The reality is that we literally live within a global economy. Global economic trade.
Factoid: Mexico is the third-largest trading partner of the U.S. and is the second-largest export market for American-made goods, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.
The reality is that without immigrants — of all races and from all places — there would be no modern and economically prosperous America. In fact, the up from nothing immigrant experience is in many ways what makes America great in the first place.
What would have happened had we closed the door on the son of a Syrian immigrant some 50 years ago? We would be trading rock/paper/scissors, that’s what. Because this Syrian young man’s name was Steve Jobs. That’s right. The Steve Jobs. The founder of arguably the wealthiest and most impactful company of the early 21st century: Apple. The maker of the very device you could very well be using to READ this article.
We cannot say it’s cool that our family — our parents, grandparents and great grandparents — got here X years ago, and we think that this is cool, and then slam the door behind us for everyone that comes next.
And so, the question needs to be asked.
What if we now begin to close the door on immigrants, simply because we are afraid of them? Because we are afraid of what they represent. Although, as it relates to crime and terrorism, according to FBI reports more than 90% of terrorists acts were committed by non-Muslims. Because we are afraid that they may be taking the job that we were not going to get — or take — anyway.
We were not going to get the hi-tech post in Silicon Valley, because too many of us don’t hold the highly specialized and advanced technical skills required to be hired in the first place.
We would not take the jobs in the vast agricultural fields of California because, well, the work is just too hard.
And let me say one last thing that most politicians would not dare to tell you.
No matter what we do, the vast booming factories of the Industrial Revolution in the 20th Century are not returning to southern and midwest states and our small cities. We are going to have to re-imagine the economies of these places. We need new ideas, not an emotional rehashing of the worn out old ones. But these vast traditional factories of old are not coming back because of immigrant threats or international trade agreements, but because it simply no longer makes any economic sense.
And here is one more news flash: when and if those traditional manufacturing facilities do return to the United States we would find yet another shocker awaiting budding, low-skilled workers — 21st Century automation.
The new worker of the modern day traditional factory will increasingly become automation, robots, and computerization. Which takes us back to the point I just made above. According to credible Australian research reports, 40% of all jobs — in the world — will simply disappear within our lifetime.
You see, the real crisis in society and our modern America are not immigrants, nor international trade agreements. It is us. All of us. Represented by our out of control, irrational fears. And we must get a hold of ourselves. And quick.
America is a great nation. Possibly still the greatest and most free nation on the planet. But this is arguably also true — we have lost our storyline, as a nation. And we need to get it back. Now
I am not going to spread irrational fears, and I am asking you to commit not to do the same. Beyond the fact that it is not who we are — to deny someone else their basic human dignity — it also does not work. We need solutions that solve today, not more irrational fears and blaming.
And so, I am committing to do my part, which is precisely why I am opening a network of 1,000 HOPE Inside locations across America between now and 2020. A HOPE Inside network which is raising credit scores an average of 120 points over a 24-month period, and creating a new generation of homeowners, small business owners, entrepreneurs and stakeholders. Black and white, urban and rural.
Serving the working poor, the working class, and the struggling middle class. All across America. A growing network for good, which I jokingly refer to as a cross between a private banker for the working man, and the “Starbucks” of financial inclusion.’
And there you have it. Something we can do other than complain and hate. We can actually, be proud.