Sanctuary is a place of refuge too holy to be soiled with the perversion of conflict; it is an ancient shrine and a spot where the soil is too hallowed and the air too consecrated for impurity. For nearly three centuries, the United States has been one of the most inclusive and welcoming sanctuaries for immigrants and refugees from all over the world. This is fitting of George Washington’s dream that, “This land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.” Now we have come to a crossroads in our history where an ethnic nationalist threatens to subvert our core values—those that most fundamentally make us Americans.
I am a descendant of Greek immigrants. I have a Jewish teacher, and a former math teacher of mine is Armenian. It is not ethnicity that demarcates between countryman and foreigner here. But what makes us truly American? What has always united the generations of immigrants who have come to this country, starting with the Pilgrims who endured starvation and poverty to live by the way their God told them. The most central tenets of American society lie in our shared values. Our Founding Fathers laid out those values—including those of democracy, meritocracy, equality, and justice—in our Constitution, yet our nation’s history has been writ with a failure to live up to those values.
Though we have repeatedly failed in the past, our inadequacies have always given way to improvement. It is that constant dedication to improve that has ensured that the arc of our nation’s history has bent toward justice. Now, more than ever, it has become our patriotic obligation and duty to continue upon this path—in the footsteps of our predecessors.
All-around patriots, like myself, often feel a sense of duty to defend our values as well as our government; however, President Trump’s legitimization of nationalistic fringe attitudes pits the two against each other. Because the greatness of America does not lie in our government, true loyalists to the American cause must always choose to defend our values.
Supporting our national values means to do so both in spirit and action. So vote, march, write, and do everything possible to remind the world that this nation is, and will forever be, of immigrants.