I just finished watching Obama’s Q&A session with NALEO, The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Many questions were posed to him on foreign policy, education, the economy, energy, and illegal immigration. As usual, he was articulate and persuasive – at least to his immediate audience. In good rhetorical and political fashion, he concluded the session with a personal anecdote that was intended to pull on our heart strings.
As he observed a long line for a “naturalization” event, he noticed many of the waitees holding “small American flags.” A little girl in particular caught his attention. She was “studying government.” I seem to recall him saying she was 7 or 8 years old. However, given her field of study, my ears could have deceived me. Maybe she was in 7th or 8th grade. The age is not the point. Instead, Obama drew attention to the fact that this little girl was a “citizen” who had to translate for her parents, who would eventually become “citizens.”
What is the profound moral of the story? We Americans should not “fail to recognize humanity” in this anecdote. Neither should we create a “servant class” from both the legal and illegal immigrants in our country. In fairness to Obama, he stated several good ideas regarding illegal immigration. He would “fine” the lawbreakers and send them to the “back of the line.” Also, he would require them to “learn English.” But, polished rhetorican as he is, (not as good as MLK or Clinton, yet), he concluded his remarks with this story, knowing that, whatever else he said in the session, it would remain indelibly fixed in the minds of his supporters. And, to top it off, he even ended in Spanish: Todos Somos Americanos, or, We are all Americans.
Thank you Obama for treating your audience like “Sesame Street” viewers. When my kids were younger, I played a video for them – but only once. The catch line to the song was, “We are all Earthlings.” Perhaps treating his audience like toddlers, though, is only natural. After all, his answers were filled with utopian bumper stickers: “Now is the Time to Provide Universal Health Care”; “Prosperity for Everyone”; “Coalition of Change”; “Forcing Teachers to Teach to the Test”; “Pathway to Citizenship”; and, “Responsible and Honorable End to the War.”
“Iris Martinez is one my homies.” Perhaps this attempt at relating is the worst. I don’t want my next President utilizing former gang language that has entered the mainstream. My favorite slogan he used was that he would dangle “carrots and sticks” in front of our enemies in the Middle East. Of course, I would have put “stick” first.
For all the polish and catchy phrases, though, Obama (and many other politicians on both sides of the aisle) miss the point of the American public regarding illegal immigration. It is because we respect humanity that we want true immigration change. Both our Puritan Fathers and Founding Fathers understood that men and women are flawed. Either the Fall or Experience has created selfish creatures who think they have the right to disobey laws. On the other side of the coin, the Creator/Nature has stamped His Image/Reason on all humans. Therefore, we are all responsible for obeying the laws. With most Americans this is common sense. With most Americans this is where the illegal immigration starts.
Until Congress, then, enforces, creates, and/or alters our current immigration laws, Americans will continue to mock political anecdotes that attempt to unite law-breakers with law-abiders.