One cannot overstate the importance of the principles and values on which the foundation of a nation is laid upon. I believe one of the smartest things done by the founders of America was to ensure the separation of church and state, and this principle has played a major role in the economic and social evolution of the country. America has become the model democracy in the world where people from all religious backgrounds co-exist harmoniously and feel at home. But a country’s evolution is rarely smooth and despite its exemplary founding principles, America has also seen few dark periods throughout its history when certain minority groups such as Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans were subjected to prejudice and discrimination on the basis of who they were and where they came from. One cannot undo the history but one can learn from it so as not to repeat the same mistakes. One of the most admirable things about Americans is their willingness to acknowledge past mistakes and use them as motivation to build a better present and future. But I am afraid these past lessons are being ignored by certain extremist elements in the country and their actions do nothing but violate the very principles upon which country was founded and which have helped America become the most exemplary democracy in the world.
The Middle East is going through tumultuous times and one of the most pressing challenges of our times is the re-adjustment of Syrians who are fleeing their homes. I have been moved by the huge number of Americans who have stepped forward to embrace Syrian refugees, but it is also important to acknowledge racism and prejudice is still strong in parts of the country. As a Syrian-American, I have personally witnessed the ugly form of racism. Not long ago, I was with friends at a Waffle House restaurant in Lubbock, TX when some individuals approached us and told us to go back to the country of terrorists and take all refugees with me. The incident made me realized the leaders such as Donald Trump are supposed to uphold American values, but instead they violate them for personal gains.
This issue is important to me because despite its shortcomings, America is an example to the world when it comes to national and cultural diversity. America has always been the country of immigrants and prejudice has no place in this country. The tradition of refugees is almost as old as the country itself. I have been fortunate to visit the Ellis Island Museum in American which has pictures of the immigrants from many countries such as Germany, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and England. It is ironical many of the individuals who promote religion and country-based discrimination against the immigrants and the refugees are themselves the children of the immigrants.
America will continue to become more diverse over time because geographical barriers have been declining as a result of globalization. Moreover, the fastest growing population demographics in America are minority groups such as Hispanic Americans. In order to attract the top talent from all over the world, America has to become even more welcoming of immigrants. More than half a century has passed since the inhumane internment of Japanese Americans yet the pain is still alive. But I have confidence in my generation that it will never repeat the mistakes of their forefathers no matter how many divisive voices like Donald Trump may attempt to provoke them. I am optimistic the best days of America are still ahead, and this country will continue to be the preferred destination for immigrants from all over the world who will help it maintain its economic edge over the rest of the world.