The cartoon shown below by Joseph Keppler entitled “Looking Backwards,” hangs in the museum on Ellis Island. The caption at the museum reads: “In a Puck cartoon entitled “looking backward,” the shadows of their immigrant origins loom over the rich and powerful who wanted to deny the “new” immigrants from central and southern Europe admission to America. The caption on the cartoon reads, ‘They would close to the newcomer the bridge that carried them and their fathers over.’”
In the book ‘The Disuniting of America,’ the late historian Arthur Schlesinger asks what is it that holds a diverse nation together. His answer is acculturation and integration–and he advocates for the continuation of one of America’s founding principles, “E Pluribus Unum.”
Trying to advocate for “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of Many, One”) is no easy task in America today. I hope that if you are reading this post you will do so in the spirit in which it is written–to make E Pluribus Unum more real for more people in America than ever before–not to subsume anyone’s identities in anyone else’s, but to create an inclusive nation of opportunity for all, that is accepting and respectful of our differences.
Sadly, at the moment America is moving in the opposite direction, with more people on both sides of the political aisle questioning the worth of loyalty to common values and ideals. Thankfully the majority of us, of all races, ethnicities and religions, still recognize that we are all in this together.
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