Lola

Citizenship es un gran regalo

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Dear Janet:

I hope all is well with you and the hardworking people at NCLR. I’m reaching out to you today after having read Little Einsteins: The Christmas Wish Box with my kids. You see, in the story, Santa Claus leaves special presents under the Christmas tree for June, Leo and Quincy. The kids are mesmerized by the gift, a beautiful “wish box,” which, as the name implies, contains a wish. But then they realize that somehow Annie, one of the Little Einsteins, didn’t get her present.  The kids are very smart, and Annie is such a good kid, there’s no way she’s on the Naughty List. They soon realize that Annie’s present fell off Santa’s sleigh.

The little genios then have to work collaboratively and go on an adventure to the top of Mt. Everest to get Annie’s present. Along the way, they teach us the importance of teamwork and selflessness in order to achieve the greater good. In a moving gesture, each kid offers up his or her wish box to help them and their spaceship Rocket overcome hurdles along their journey as they reach for the summit of Mt. Everest.

Pretty neat, ¿qué no?

You may be wondering why I’m wasting your time telling you about this children’s book. La verdad es que I want NCLR, as the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the country, to succeed in its goal to improve opportunities for individuals, families and our community. I want to offer you my “wish box.”

Your research endeavors are fabulous, ditto for your advocacy, but what about community building? I was bummed when I read on your website that only 925 people had signed your “Vote for Respect Pledge” which read, in part: I am tired of the attacks on my community. Latinos have a long and proud history in America, but anti-Latino sentiment has escalated in our country in recent years. I am tired of being the punching bag. I am tired of being suspect in my own community.

I find it hard to believe you were only able to reach out to 925 people to sign the petition online. You often talk about the great influence of our community, of strength in numbers and that by 2020 there will be blah, blah, blah … and yet only 925 people pledged through your website to vote for respect. Lo veo y no lo creo …

Then, also incredibly, when NCLR joined the One Nation Working Together movement to call for an economy that works for everyone, a grand total of 366 people signed the pledge through your website. Wow! 366. No wonder Russell Pearce can laugh at your efforts in Arizona.

Maybe you need a new communications, social media and marketing strategy. Maybe you are not reaching out to the right people. Maybe people are just not interested. No sé.

En mi humilde opinión, we – together – should focus more on teaching and practicing civics. Here’s an idea. By now you must have heard that Gerda Weissmann Klein received the Presidential Medal of Freedom just last month. Gerda lives in Arizona, and as a holocaust survivor, philanthropist and author, she has inspired many to effect positive change. One of her social ventures is the nonprofit Citizenship Counts. It provides civics education curriculum to middle and high school students in hopes of fostering tolerance, understanding, service to one another and a greater appreciation for the privilege and responsibility of citizenship. The emphasis is mine. Gerda is way more eloquent than I, of course. Listen to her words:

America is a unique, diverse and wondrous country, comprised both of those who know its magnificence as their birthright, and others, like me, who are privileged to call our adopted country “our own.” What we all share is a desire for our families to enjoy America’s boundless opportunities while extending to all our fellow citizens justice and the blessings and freedoms upon which the nation was founded.

Sooo … instead of telling Capitol Hill about the clout of the Latino community and hosting voter registration rallies at the eleventh hour, Mexican time, let’s start at the beginning. Let’s indict less and act more. Let’s work together in making the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship count year round. I’m in. ¿Y tú?

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