This trip is also about changing stereotypes. Two Republicans have helped me along that path.
This image is posted on the IEC’s website.
For a long time the Republican party has refused to welcome immigrants into the U.S. At least, that’s the idea that one gets from the media, generally speaking. In Ely, people asked us many times what stereotypes about the Americans we had changed in our visit, and now that we’re on our way to New York I do not want to leave the Twin Cities without mentioning those republicans that I have gotten to meet in our trip: apparently, George W. Bush does not represent them all.
In Ely I got to meet Sherryl, Anne Swenson’s friend. My memory is terrible when it comes to names so I hope I wrote it down correctly. She was so fabulous that, I must admit, I was very much surprised when she told me she was a Republican. It is a shame I don’t have a picture of her right now but we will probably meet her in Chicago again, in case my fellow colleagues are wondering who Sherryl is.
“We don’t care where people are from nor their accent. We just want them to integrate, to speak English so we can talk to them and viceversa, to pay their taxes like everyone around here does and to comply with our rules. We want them to feel Americans, because this is a great country and I am proud to be one”, Sherryl stated.
Sherryl’s words sounded very sensible to me. She said she wanted foreigners to become part of the American society, to love her country as much as she does. She didn not use once condescending words with respect to Latins, Asians or Africans. Furthermore, she expressed: “Not all Republicans are like George W. Bush”.
David Gaither talked to the WPI for over an hour. Thank you, David, for your time.
One week later we went to the Interanationa Education Center (IEC) and met David Gaither. Another Republican. He used to be a state senator and worked for the governor too. However, his day-to-day routine is now far from politicians and power. He actually works for the least powerful people of this country: the immigrants who do not speak English.
The IEC barely manages to have funds every year, and it is mainly Gaither who has to deal with the lack of resources and the necessity for the IEC to keep working. “I just wanted to help my community, and immigrants are now part of this community”, Gaither said when explaining why he was the head of the IEC.
Gaither pretty much explained that no immigrant would have any chance to succed among Americans if they didn’t speak the language (which is obvious) and it is his job to obtain resources in order for as many immigrants as possible to take English lessons. He did not once use despicable lines such as “the U.S. would be better off without so many foreigners”. On the contrary, he criticised Minnesotans’ “politeness”: “Minnesotans usually regard themselves as a community willing to receive foreign people, but just a few actually do something to make immigrans feel at home”.
This is a thank you note to Sherryl and David, who have allowed me to know Republicans far from stereotypes. I have always admired open-minded people, who know the world does not end but begin in their doorway. Thus, my admiration to you both.