Worthington’s recent International Festival was again a proud resounding of harmony within a world of discord. The variety to cultural expressions called to mind two presidential quotes regarding the phrase “hyphenated American.”
The term ordinated as an insult. At the turn of the 20th century, it was used to disparage Americans who were of foreign birth or origin. As tensions built up in the years leading to World War I, former president Theodore Roosevelt said, “There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.”
President Reagan, speaking appreciatively of the author of a letter he had received, said, “He wrote that you can go to live in France, but you can’t become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Italy, but you can’t become a German or Italian. He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan and other countries. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American.”
According to Wikipedia, “being a hyphenated American connotes a sense that individuals straddle two worlds — one experience is specific to their unique ethnic identity while the other is the broader multicultural amalgam that is Americana.”
For some, ethnic diversity may be threat to White supremacy. Worthington, however, on its better days, is a witness to the richness of having neighbors of various cultures and the benefits of equal opportunities for all. What unites us as Americans and makes us great?
It’s fulfilling our pledge of allegiance to be “the republic” (not rule by the elite with one vote per dollar; but by the people with one vote per person), “one nation under God” (not my white, brown, black or yellow god; but Our Heavenly Father), “indivisible” (not alienating partisan ideologies; but working for the common good), “with liberty” (not suppression; but freedom to achieve potential), “and justice” (not discrimination; but equal opportunity), “for all” (not just for the powerful and privileged; but for everyone).
This summer, I have had the privilege of leading a study of Exodus for Hispanic youth at Dream Catchers. We learned that Moses had a hyphenated identity. He was the child of Hebrew parents but grew up in the Egyptian palace. Moses was an Egyptian-Hebrew. This unique identity prepared him to be the liberator of his people.
People of hyphenated identity may well be those best equipped to lead us out of our slavery to fears and hatred. I am grateful for those neighbors in our community. And I am grateful for those who enable us to celebrate who we are at the International Festival.