Editorial: In America, so much has changed

If there is one area, one topic in our national discussion more acrimonious than the current argument over immigration, we can’t think of it right now. Television hosts go on about how America no longer looks the way it once did, comments praised by a former KKK leader.

Children are separated from their parents at our border and flown to holding areas in other parts of the country. Many public officials do not condemn it. Some even hold the people behind it up as personal heroes.

What follows is a testament to how far we’ve come in this great land in a very short amount of time.

On Jan. 19, 1989, President Ronald Reagan gave his final speech at the podium in the White House. He was there to hand out the Presidential Medal of Freedom and, in his speech, he made these comments about immigration:

“… American freedom does not belong to just one nation. We’re custodians of freedom for the world. In Philadelphia two centuries ago, James Allen wrote in his diary that ‘If we fail, liberty no longer continues an inhabitant of this globe.’ Well, we didn’t fail. And still, we must not fail. For freedom is not the property of one generation; it’s the obligation of this and every generation. It’s our duty to protect it and expand it and pass it undiminished to those still unborn.

“… since this is my last speech I will give as President, I think it’s fitting to leave one final thought, an observation about a country which I love. It was stated best in a letter I received not long ago. The man wrote me and said: ‘You can go to live in France, but you cannot be a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk, or a Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American.’

“Yes, the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors. It is that lady who gives us our great and special place in the world. For it’s the great life force of each generation of new Americans that guarantees that America’s triumph shall continue unsurpassed into the next century and beyond.

“Other countries may seek to compete with us; but in one area, as a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws the people of the world, no country on Earth comes close.

“This, I believe, is one of the most important sources of America’s greatness. We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people — our strength — from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation.

“While other countries cling to the stale past, here in America we breathe life into dreams. We create the future, and the world follows us into tomorrow. Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier.

“This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”

So much has changed.

A year ago this month in Virginia, white nationalists and neo-Nazis shouted Nazi slogans and waved the swastika. They denounced Jews as Satan’s children. Marchers held out their right arms in a Nazi salute. Berlin 1938?

This happened in August 2017 in the United States of America.

So much has changed.