It’s 4th of July and as we celebrate the American Independence is a good time to reflect on the values of diversity in which this country was founded. Many would argue that the constitution does not refer specifically to diversity and ethnicity, but I disagree. Thomas Jefferson’s statement couldn’t be more clear to me: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.
It is precisely in the pursuit of happiness that I want to focus my celebration of the American Independence, as my commitment to celebrate diversity and pursue and support equality as one of my duties as a US citizen. I firmly believe we can be ONE, and be empowered in our differences and welcome what each one of us can contribute to this country; that’s one of the ways we pursue happiness. Amidst the troubling times we are living today, I remain optimistic of the future we can forge for a country that, although has a history that is filled with mistakes and injustice, it is also filled with those who have risen above and pursue a better way.
Every year, like millions of other American families, I take my children to watch the fireworks, I talk to them about the beauty and values this country was founded on. I choose to talk to them about those who have champion equality, diversity and civil rights. Celebrating American Independence is not an act of submissiveness or conformism to the things that are going wrong in this country today.
On the contrary, the American Independence is a reminder that we must continue to believe in the highest values, and believe we can also rise above and right the wrongs we face in our time. We are the generation that is raising the cross-cultural kids that will lead the world tomorrow, and as such, we must teach them a better way and remain not only vigilant but hopeful on the power our commitment and conviction has.
With that, I want to share the beautiful poem Richard Blanco read during the second presidential inauguration of Barack Obama, One Today. I love this poem because is filled with everyday imagery described in a simple, yet gorgeous manner. A beautiful description of the United States.
Happy American Independence Day!
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothesline.
Hear squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other, all day, saying: hello/shalom,
buon giorno / howdy / namaste / or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted?
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together
About the poet: Richard Blanco s an American poet, public speaker, author and civil engineer. Born in Madrid on February 15, 1968, and immigrated to the United States as a child with his Cuban family that was living in exile. Raised and educated in the city of Miami, he is the fifth poet to read at a United States presidential inauguration, having read for Barack Obama’s second inauguration. He is the first immigrant, the first Latino, the first openly gay person and the youngest person to be the U.S. inaugural poet. He graduated with a degree of Civil Engineering from the International University of Florida in 1911 and obtained a masters in Creative Writing in 1997, during which he studied with Campbell McGrath. He was a professor at Georgetown University, American University, Connecticut State University, and the Writer’s Center.