Op-ed: By Thomas Doyle, Class of 2018
At this point, we are all aware of the language that was used by our president to describe Haiti, El Salvador, and a number of African nations. By choosing to use such language, the president has weakened our credibility on the world stage, insulted the heritage of many of our own citizens, and willfully ignored the fact that our thriving nation as it exists today is the direct result of centuries of continuous immigration. As abhorrent as the language may have been, what is most troubling is that it was used by the president as part of a question. “Why are we having these people…come here?” By asking such a question, even without the vulgarity in place, the president has revealed that he does not realize what an immigrant offers this country.
Unfortunately, the president may not be alone in his ignorance of what immigrants bring to our country. In our increasingly insular society, in which fewer and fewer Americans engage in any social interaction, it has become far too easy for us to ignore or overlook the contributions that immigrants still bring to this country, regardless of their country of origin. At a time when interpersonal communication is on the decline, it is more important than ever for us to share the stories of our own interactions with immigrants. By sharing such stories, we can begin to eradicate the ignorance that leads some of us to question the value of immigrants in our society.
Last year, while working in the Washington office of Senator Ed Markey, I had the pleasure of meeting a guest of the Senator, Said Ahmed. Said’s story is one that deserves to be told. When Said arrived in the United States at the age of twelve as a refugee from Somalia, he did not speak a word of English. However, upon his arrival in Boston, Said was able to integrate into society, especially with the help of afterschool sports programs and community support systems. Said developed a passion for running, becoming a standout runner at Boston English High School and a four-time All-American at the University of Arkansas. Said even had the opportunity to represent our country in competition, as a member of the United States Track and Field Team. In addition to representing our country in athletics, Said has impacted our society for the better in numerous ways. Realizing that many newly-arriving immigrants did not have a support system similar to the one that he had once benefitted from, Said established United Somali Youth in 2009. The program, designed to teach kids essential life skills, now provides a social support system for more than 500 youngsters in the Boston area who are the children of African immigrants. Said is also the doting father of three children, and a devoted husband.
But perhaps his greatest contribution to our community is Said’s full-time profession. Said is a teacher at South Boston High School: an American History teacher. The students at South Boston Excel High School are truly privileged to be taught the story of our country by someone who truly exemplifies what our nation stands for. Said Ahmed, an immigrant, has already done more to affect positive change in this country than some flag waving, natural-born Americans will do in a lifetime, and he is not slowing down any time soon. To answer our president’s question, Said Ahmed is the reason why we are having these people come here.