Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What does it mean to be an American?

I've asked this question on a couple of occasions here - once about Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Cejudo and again after listening to the benediction at the Tucson Memorial delivered by Carlos Gonzales.

Now, the question is being asked very powerfully by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. Please take a few minutes to watch this.

Vargas has also written an article titled My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant for the New York Times Magazine.

Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.

But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.

I have no idea what kind of toll it takes on one to live this kind of life - nor the courage it must have taken for Vargas to speak about it all publicly now. What I do know is that however you choose to define American - Vargas, and the thousands of others like him, need to be included.

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