Teddy Roosevelt on Immigration in 1907

I take no credit, and accept no criticism, for reprinting this quote directly from an old newspaper article. It is the straightforward conviction of one of America's greatest presidents on a current divisive issue he was compelled to address over a century ago. The issue, and the resolution of that issue, remain precisely the same over the entire course of our national existence. It's not about building a wall or passing onerous legislation. It's about genuine devotion and allegiance, and the intent of a man's heart.

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes and American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated with an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American but something else, is not an American at all. We have room for but one flag... the American flag. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language. And we have room but for one sole loyalty, and that is a loyalty to the American people."

Citizens of the United States are "American". All and everything before and after that is simply an adjective or a modifier. Polish Americans, Black Americans, Mexican Americans, Irish Americans, Native Americans, Gay Americans, married Americans, tall Americans, short Americans, angry Americans, prosperous Americans, homeless Americans, disgruntled Americans, educated Americans, and ignorant or illiterate Americans are all Americans. American farmers, American teachers, American politicians, American home-owners, and American athletes are all Americans.

Texas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Utah, California and New Jersey are all part of America. England, France, Mexico, Russia, Israel, Brazil, and Pakistan are not. I believe the question Teddy Roosevelt would pose to each of us is very simple and straightforward. "Are you an American... or not?"

Eric ScottComment