Last week, we celebrated German-American Day, and October is Polish-American Heritage Month. It’s a time to celebrate how German- and Polish-Americans have contributed to building a more perfect union — and what more we can do.
Early settlers thought deeply about the human condition — including morality, ethics and equality. One of the earliest known proposals to end slavery in the Americas was penned by four German Quakers in 1688. While unsuccessful in their time, their arguments inspired later generations.
My family emigrated in the early 1900s, and these shared values of equity, fairness, and universal human rights echoed at the dinner table. Only later in life did I realize how this “social education” was part of a long tradition shared by many families like mine across the United States.
Partly these conversations were born of lived experience. Settling in Wisconsin and Illinois, my grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s generations faced many obstacles: access to jobs, healthcare, and housing; language barriers; bias and sometimes, simply feeling “unwelcome.” Yet, despite these challenges — which are so familiar to recent U.S. immigrants — they continued. Their persistence was part of a tireless quest to perfect the union.
This election, Americans face a stark choice. We can support a candidate whose policies and reckless demeanor fly in the face of all that the German- and Polish-American experiences have contributed to our country’s forward progress. Or, we can choose to support Vice President Biden, who understands what these show us about how to build a better America.
Tara Leweling served as Director for NATO and Western Europe at the National Security Council in the White House during the Obama-Biden administration. She is of German and Polish heritage; her grandparents Henry and Anna Leweling settled in Kansasville during their retirement years. Following a military career that included multiple assignments in Europe, Tara lives and works in the Chicago area.
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