Barack at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials

June 30th, 2008 - 11:40 am ICT by Amrit Rashmisrisethi  

Barack spoke at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Conference in Washington, D.C. yesterday. During his closing remarks, he said…

You know a few years ago I attended a naturalization workshop at St. Pious Church in Chicago. …And as I walked down that aisle, I saw people clutching small American flags, waiting for their turn to be called up so they could begin the long process of becoming a US citizen.

At one point there was a young girl, she was 7 or 8 years old. She came up to me with her parents and she asked me for my autograph, and she said she was studying government in school and wanted to show it to her 3rd grade class. I asked her what her name was and she said my name is Christina and I told her that her parents should be very proud. And Christina was translating for her parents who didn’t speak English and yet you could tell they were so proud of her and the fact that she was an American and they were at some point through this process going to be Americans.

And I was reminded that for all the noise and the anger that surrounds our immigration debate, and America has nothing to fear from today’s immigrants. And they’ve come here for the same reason, they have come here for the same reason that families have always come here; the same reason that my father came here, for the hope that in America they can build a better life for themselves and their families, like the waves of immigrants that came before them, Hispanic Americans, whose families have been here for generations, the recent arrivals of Latino immigrants, they’re going to enrich our country and ultimately the danger [to] the American way of life is not that we’ll be overrun by those who don’t look like us or don’t speak our language.

The danger comes if we fail to recognize the humanity of Christina and her parents, their hopes and their dreams. If we withhold from them opportunities that we take for granted, if we create a serving class in our midst, and more broadly the danger will come if we continue to stand idly by as the gap between Wall Street and Main Street grows and Washington becomes more out of touch and as American grows more unequal and the promise of America, upward mobility and making a better life for the next generation as that start slipping away.

That’s been the essence of this campaign, the idea of this campaign, the idea that will lie at the heart of my presence; we are all Americans, todos somos Americanos. And in this country, we rise and fall together. I hope you’re willing to work with me to make that happen.

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