What are the signs of a great country? One thing I would argue is that we are welcoming to other people – from other countries, other religions, other cultures. America has certainly had its ups and downs on this. Some of our most iconic symbols as a country highlight the good – the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Amendment I re: religious freedom.
We have certainly had our bad as well – like, you know, slavery. While we as a country have shown time and time again that we can progress past these tragedies of our history, we also have been known to do some backsliding. If you look at some of the reports of harassment and hate language that have surfaced in the last few days, you have to be concerned that we are in one of those backsliding periods.
So what do we do? Well, a lot of things. One thing is to try to be a visible voice and presence for people who are in our country – even temporarily – and who may feel isolated and, well, “other” as a time when all we see on the news and our newsfeeds is how being “other” can put a target on your back.
This morning, we applied to be a Friendship Family through VCU’s Global Education Office. It is one way to reach out to international students in our community, to learn more about their cultures and views, and to try to provide a better experience and impression of what it means to be a global citizen in America. Programs like this exist everywhere – if you live near a college or university, you can be pretty sure that there are win-win opportunities to connect with people who we want to welcome into our country during a time when “welcomes” may feel like they are in short supply.
(Photo credit – taken from the VCU Global Education Office’s facebook page on 11/14/16)