We Are All Immigrants

Dr. Cynthia Lane, Superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools

Can you wrap your mind around the lack of middle ground that seems present in all facets of our society these days? I must admit, my ideas can be pretty fixed. But I was taught to look for the middle ground, that the truth is always somewhere in the middle. These lessons came to me as a child, as I tried to make sense of clashing cultures within my own family.

Grandfather Francis was a large, imposing man. At least that is what I was told. I have shared before that my Grandfather Francis worked as a fisherman by day; by night he competed in a boxing ring. Grandma Francis was a tailor, until her eyesight failed. What was most important to them was visible in their actions, particularly with how they raised my mother. These things weren’t riches or creature comforts, but rather, were the ideals that build strong character.  It was clear from thier actions what was expected. “Familia primero” (family first), “trabalho duro” (hard work), and “bolar” (serve) God and your fellow neighbor. As you may know, my grandparents were emigrants from Portugal. My mother was raised in a home with strong values, speaking English as her second language. This is a heritage for which I am grateful to be part of, and proud to share.

Mother married my dad and moved to Kansas as an eighteen-year-old bride. While she was born in the United States, Kansas was a long way from New Bedford, MA, and the comfort of her primarily Portuguese-speaking community. Nonetheless, she assimilated quickly to understand the values and culture of her new family. These values were not so different from my maternal grandparents. I learned early that while the languages, food and customs in my family might be different, what was common was the love of family, service of others, and reliance on God.

As I listen to the tone and watch the actions underway in our country today, I am both puzzled and saddened by what I see and hear. Why do we spend so much energy in opposition to one another, when we all seemingly want the same thing – a quality life for our children and families? I believe that differences in culture and traditions are the very attributes that makes this country unique and great (already). It is encouraging to see so many individuals and organizations across our nation stepping up and standing proud in support of diversity, proud to welcome immigrants to our country. I am so proud to represent an organization with a Board of Education that stands united in support of diversity and immigration. To make it clear to our students and families that KCKPS is, and will remain, a welcoming and safe place for all children to learn, our  board passed a the following resolution: http://kckps.org/images/board/resolution3-2-17.pdf.

It seems strange that in 2017 we have to declare, through a resolution, that we embrace and celebrate our rich diversity, that our education system is open and welcoming of all students, that information about the immigration status of a child or the child’s family has no place in our schools. But the realities of today have necessitated that we not only declare we are a welcoming school district, but that our actions align with our words. If alive today, I imagine my grandparents would be one of the vocal members of our nation who remind us that (with the exception of Native Americans) we are all immigrants. They might even remind us that Depende de Nos (It’s Up to Us) to ensure we continue to be the land of opportunity, and a nation of justice, freedom, and liberty for all.

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3 Responses to We Are All Immigrants

  1. James says:

    The “tone in our country”, for which you reference in your blog is the objection to “illegal” immigration – immigrants that are unvetted and potentially dangerous. Why do liberals from academia always seem to forget this point?

  2. Tammy says:

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I think all to often we tend to focus on “issues” and not on people. Sharing our stories is what reminds us that we are not so different from each other. We are all in this together. As you say we must work together to create and ensure a “quality life for our children and families”.

  3. Louise says:

    As a former teacher in this district, I am appalled at the continued disregard of our nation’s laws. Not one person that I know is against immigration. What people are against is ILLEGAL immigration.
    Years ago, when Kids Vote Kansas was first introduced, we were told to let all kids vote. When we questioned our supervisors about non- citizens, we were told that it didn’t matter, let them vote. What a great way to teach about following the laws of the land!
    Louise
    PS My grandparents were legal immigrants.

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