THE BLOG
05/18/2012 12:11 pm ET Updated Jul 18, 2012

Global Chicago Is the Perfect Host for NATO

For the last few weeks, Chicago has been bracing for a new kind of storm -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, summit that's occurring this weekend. For all the hassles that accommodating the event entails, though, it is a chance for host countries to showcase their most global, diverse, culturally vibrant communities. This week, it's Chicago's turn. Let's really give them something to see.

I'm not talking about our parks, our food, our museums or our sports teams. I'm talking about the roots of Chicago, which are still visible today.

As it's always been, Chicago is a city of immigrants. One hundred twenty five years ago, when Jane Addams opened the doors of Heartland Alliance, the organization I lead, immigrants came here with little more than the clothes on their backs. They helped lay the foundation of the city we know today -- they organized for fair labor practices, built railroads and stockyards and opened successful small businesses.

The foundation they laid, though, has been critical in making Chicago the global city that it is -- with all the successes and challenges that entails.

Those global challenges are something we deal with every day at Heartland Alliance. We work in more than 20 countries around the world, and here in Chicago, with those who have fled poverty, danger and persecution.

We work to heal the wounds of genocide, war, torture and slavery, and we help refugees and immigrants settle in their new homeland. We help them connect to housing, health care, jobs and justice as they become a part of the greatest tradition of Chicago -- acting as a mosaic of diversity.

So as NATO comes to Chicago this week, and as dignitaries from around the world tour our parks, eat our pizza and catch a baseball game, let's also show them the real fabric of Chicago -- its people.

Let's show them how global we've become -- and how true to our roots we've remained. We're a city of diversity, of strength, of determination -- one that hasn't forgotten that its foundation was built on the backs of immigrants who just wanted a chance at a good life, just like those Heartland Alliance serves today.

And afterwards, if they want a hot dog, let's remind them to hold the ketchup.