America Isn't Great - It's Beautiful

By Nico Tuccillo (Motivated American)

My mother and her family come from the tiny South American country of Uruguay. She often speaks of her childhood, and to be honest it sounds pretty nice. A small nation of 3.3 million people, flat lands and simple cattle farms, Uruguay provided everything needed for a decent life. She and her friends would spend their days playing on the beach and exploring the few forests Uruguay has to offer. Occasionally, too, they would find themselves in the classroom.

In the early years of schooling, a great emphasis was placed on teaching kids about the rest of the world. In particular, the topic of the United States of America fascinated my mother and her friends. Imagine — you grow up in a nation where, even with its own level of diversification, everyone speaks the same language. Everyone looks the same, more or less. Everyone tans similarly in the sun. And then, you learn about America.

For them, America was more than just the land of wealth or opportunity — that is not what made America shine most brightly in their eyes. The lure of America came from the fact that nothing was “commonplace,” nothing was “expected.” America was the land of a thousand peoples and a million ideas, and most importantly, it welcomed every single one. That is what drew my mother and her family here. The held immense pride in being Uruguayan, as I do, but they held even more pride in the notion that America was the one place on Earth where they were accepted for their wildest dreams, and not their most mundane realities.

This is the America my mother, and millions upon millions of other people around the globe and across time have come to love. By no means were we ever a perfect nation. America has its own demons, some very severe, and has seen its fair share of violence, mistreatment, and division. But perfection is not people want. People desire simply a fair shot at a decent life, a welcoming and friendly environment in which to express themselves, to whatever end and for whatever reason. When I was young this is what my mother tried to impart upon me, that America gave the rest of the world hope because it was the only place where hope was all you needed. Now that I am older, I love my country for this very reason. But I am also fearful.

I am scared because we have a leader and an administration that is threatening to badly damage this image of America. Through recently implemented policies and aggressive, pointed rhetoric, we degrade our most sacred tenet and give the impression that America is no longer for anyone with a dream. It may now seem that where you were born matters more to America than your dreams, or to which God you pray, or to how you look or what you believe. This, more than any damage our new President and his supporters could do to me, to our economy or our unity as a country,  is what is most concerning.

When I talk with my mother, or when I go back to Uruguay to visit my family, I am reminded that countless people around the world look to America when they have nowhere else to look. It is a comfort for them to know that here, we will NOT turn them away, we will NOT demand they “fit in,” we will NOT demand they accept. WE accept, and WE cherish. This notion is being challenged, and in the coming months and years may be irrevocably damaged for a generation or more. WE must not let that happen.

I take great pride in being the first Uruguayan citizen to attend Harvard College full-time. I shudder at the thought of my country not taking the same amount of pride in me. By speaking out against any action that will harm our image as the land of hope, you can help ensure we remain a sanctuary for all people on this planet. Don’t be afraid to criticize or protest — that is true patriotism.