“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
When Lady Liberty first displayed these famous words in 1903, it was in earnest. Millions upon millions of immigrants from many countries heeded her call. Now, 110 years later, her words and their sentiment still resound in the hearts and minds of many Americans, as well as in those from around the world who wish they were here.
Newcomers arrived escaping persecution, upheaval and corruption. They came for opportunity, success and freedom. They wanted to achieve the American Dream. Take a quick look around the world: today, not much has really changed in most places.
Our huge, aging Baby Boomer generation seized on plentiful opportunities and achieved resounding successes, but somewhat on the backs of their parents and grandparents, who as immigrants, set the stage and did the heaviest lifting. A few of the Baby Boomers are just not quite as great as they might think they are. They shouldn’t forget where they come from. Their forebears, the members of the Greatest Generation, built America, won World War II, and created a long-standing prosperity for their children and grandchildren.
Today’s more recent immigrants and their children, namely Latinos, are finding the American Dream a bit more elusive than Lady Liberty’s first invitees did. With a stagnant economy and the lack of large numbers of decent manufacturing jobs that helped propel earlier immigrant groups, things are different now. It’s harder.
However, today’s Latino Americans aren’t giving up. They’re optimistic. They’re inventive. They’re vibrant. And they love America. Despite the lack of any widespread recognition, special assistance and understanding from earlier, non-Latino immigrants and their descendants, Latinos are quickly moving forward on all fronts. Their current drive includes having a very large hand in re-inventing the American Dream for the betterment of everyone.
Latinos will do this, with or without anyone’s help. They must. Based on their sheer numbers, Latinos are on the verge of inheriting to a very large extent this great country of theirs. They want it to succeed. They will be providing more leadership in all aspects of American society very soon. America’s future is both expecting it and demanding it of them.
If America is to succeed — and based on everything I’ve seen, it will — today’s generation of younger more Latinos will one day be known by Lady Liberty as another “Greatest Generation.”
Happy New Year!
Larry Bystran serves as Chairman and CEO of Latino Alliance, LLC, a national organization based in Springfield, MA, that promotes and recognizes Latino achievement, leadership, and success. Larry and his wife, Nelly Ayala-Bystran, co-founded Latino Alliance in early 2012.