Ambitious. Liberal. Pandering. Overreaching. Laudable. Laughable. Pick your word, because each of these has been used in social and real media to describe both the President’s State of the Union speech and Sen. Marco Rubio’s response yesterday evening. As a Democrat, I know that I agree with many of the principals that form the foundation of President Barack Obama’s vision for America. At the same time, as the son of immigrants, I can relate to Sen. Rubio’s story and the pride he has in his family’s hard work and determination.
So, at the end of the night, I was happy to offer comments on both the speech and the response. But, I am choosing, now, to comment on something else – something that struck me much more than the actual words of either address: the people who gave them.
I am a 26-year-old Asian American. My parents were born in India, were raised in England, and fought hard to make the most of the opportunities they received. I was blessed with every chance to excel throughout my life, and it is no secret that I aspire to serve in elected office some day soon. And last night, I saw an African-American President and a Hispanic-American Senator address a nation whose ethnic makeup is changing and diversifying every single day.
It was a stunning thing to behold.
Recently, a lot has been made of the diversification of our Congress – more women in elected office than at any point in history, two black Senators, and a number of immigrant stories are all a part of our Legislature. But I do not recall having seen this trend as clearly expressed as it was last night.
We can agree and disagree about the things that were actually said. We can debate the merits of the proposals put forth by the President and the Senator. I welcome those conversations and look forward to having them in the coming days and weeks. But what is indisputable is the fact that the United States is changing, living up to its own ideal of being the melting pot of the world, and is doing so in a more visible, palpable way than ever before.
My grandfather always praised America for its promise to the world: that anyone, from anywhere, can come here, and, with perseverance and hard work, can make it. His vision is what has always motivated me to pursue a political career – I want to work hard to ensure that we are doing everything we can to protect that vision of America: to defend it from real threats – economic and physical – and to preserve the hope embodied in that vision so that future generations can aspire to fulfill the ambitions that this vision allows one to create.
Now, I know there is a lot of work left to do when it comes to ensuring that everyone has access to what we call the American Dream. But, if last night is any indication, we have come a long way.
An African American President. A Hispanic-American U.S. Senator. A nation watching intently. And a young Indian-American sharing his thoughts on it all. This is the United States of America: the place that I call home.