One of NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcell's more oft-used quotes is: "You are what your record says you are." That doesn't just apply to sports teams. Team America's record of late has not been of the champion of the values we say define who we are and what we're about. Our record says more about our real identity more than the one we imagine.
Those who have gotten their hands dirty planting trees or mentoring underserved youth are far more likely to be actively engaged citizens throughout their lives. They will be the ones who will sign petitions, lead protests, give voice to the voiceless, and simply refuse to sit on the sidelines. That's a pretty big "win-win."
As the immigration debate rages on in Washington, it is easy to forget what's really at stake. We watch the talking heads make their tit-for-tat arguments about border security, and meanwhile we lose sight of the larger story -- the story of what immigrants do for this country, and how they make us better and stronger as a nation.
When jurors receive that summons in the mail, they believe the court commanded them to attend, not the Constitution. Such a reality inverts role that juries were expected to play. Citizens have lost the sense that jury duty is constitution duty, and that "we the people" are responsible for our government.
Today, the U.S. Constitution celebrates its 227th birthday. For more than half those years -- 115 to be exact -- residents of overseas U.S. territories have been denied full and equal membership as part of We the People. Now it is time to recognize that these citizens deserve to be treated as full and equal members of We the People.
Imagine for a moment that anytime you intend to go back to your country of origin, you must prepare a statement, inform human rights organizations, and confront the uncertainty of either being denied entry, arrested or deported. For Bahraini human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja, imagination is not necessary -- this is her reality.
Ferguson was not just an event in which police overreacted to heated demonstrations; it's a symptom of a generalized hatred of democracy in this country -- the hatred of the truly bold idea that politics should be the work of everyday people and that power should not be concentrated in the hands of a few.
I am American. Some of my ancestors were born here and knew no other land, some of my ancestors journeyed here from Europe, and some of my ancestors were brought here from Africa. I don't know the complete stories of any of their lives, but I know their stories merge to create mine. One that is very specifically American.