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Home » Officer Columns » Time to Restore the US as a Welcoming Nation

Time to Restore the US as a Welcoming Nation

  -  AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

The desire to live and work in the United States and Canada continues to be a goal of many people around the world. The dream of a life with endless possibilities is a powerful motivation to leave one’s home and what is most familiar. While oppression or violence often factor into a courageous decision to leave the only home one has ever known, the desire to be free is a powerful, magnetic force attracting many to our shores. 

While Canada continues to be a welcoming nation to immigrants, the United States has a tarnished reputation of late. Recently, AFL-CIO transition documents (currently in draft form) contain numerous recommendations for the next US administration, one of which includes a recommendation to restore our identity as a welcoming nation.

The performing arts have long benefitted from gifted and talented artists that have come to North America to make a new life. Symphony orchestra auditions have long attracted the very best symphonic talent the world has to offer, and musicians as a whole have accepted and supported audition winners from around the world.

Both the United States and Canada are nations of immigrants. As our countries have developed, so much of what we have become is due to the contributions, work ethic, and creative talent of immigrants. New innovations, discoveries, inventions, and research have made positive contributions in many areas including the creative and performing arts, medicine, science, philosophy, economics, education, and business. Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla, Igor Stravinsky, Irving Berlin, Claude McKay, I.M. Pei, Carlos Santana, John Lennon, Anthony Hopkins, George Balanchine, and Mikhail Baryshnikov are but a few of the immigrants who impacted or even changed the world, and the list goes on and on.

But immigrants in most cases never become famous. They are simply hard-working people with a dream. My grandfather was one of those with a dream who arrived in the United States eventually meeting my immigrant grandmother—both arriving with little but the clothes on their backs. My grandfather opened a small grocery store, and as the family grew (two sons and one daughter), each worked in the grocery store after school learning the meaning of hard work. It was understood the pathway to success was diligence coupled with education. Therefore, education was and remains highly regarded in my family. 

In 1970, there were just over nine million immigrants residing in the US, comprising 4.7% of the total US population. In 2018, there were nearly 45 million US immigrants residing in the US, comprising 13.7% of the total US population. (Source: Migration Policy Institute). This increase is indicative of the relentless desire to come to America in order to take advantage of the increased opportunities and create a better life for one’s family.

I feel fortunate and thankful that my grandparents had the courage to immigrate to America. My life would have been very different had my grandparents remained in their country of birth (today known as Belarus). I truly hope the United States will once again become a welcoming country so we can all benefit from the diversity that truly makes us great.

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