I share with Julián Castro a story about immigrant grandparents.
Both his grandmother Victoria and my father's grandfather Nicholas Muhlestein came to this country, learned the language, found work, and struggled and sacrificed so that their children and grandchildren could have a better life.
Mayor Castro wrote, "In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don't always cross the finish line in the span of one generation."
In both cases, the grandchildren of the immigrant honor their grandparent, and honor the struggle that led to a better life for them and their children.
The difference between our stories is a couple of generations. But if the grandchildren of Nicholas had been inclined to provide everything for the poor of their generation, then Victoria wouldn't have had to struggle. And Julián might not have even come into being, and certainly wouldn't be honoring his grandmother's struggle as such.
Ought we not to allow those who are entering America in this generation the right to struggle? So that their grandchildren can honor them for the better life provided in the third span of the relay race?
This concerns not only immigrants from other countries, but also those whose families have been in America for generations who are now awakening to the possibilities of the American dream. The first span of the relay race is struggle. The second is consolidation of gains from the first. The third can be full success in the American middle class, perhaps even political success, like Julián and his twin brother, Joaquín.
As Julián's says of the middle class, "With hard work, everybody ought to be able to get there. And with hard work, everybody ought to be able to stay there—and go beyond."
The only question is, where is the starting point? And should it still involve a relay race span of struggle? Or can we afford to let everyone start the relay race in the second or even the third span?
Harriet Jarman Layton's song
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