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Demokratia: a woman crowning old man Demos, the people, a detail from an Athenian law sculpted in marble, 336 BCE.
Demokratia: a woman crowning old man Demos, the people, a detail from an Athenian law sculpted in marble, 336 BCE.

DEMOKRATIA

During Immigrant Heritage Month, the words of President Barack Obama remind us of what is important.

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It was in Greece, 25 centuries ago, in the rocky hills of Athens, that a new idea emerged: Demokratia.

It might be hard to have faith in it today, but what it means is that we are citizens, not servants, but stewards of our societies. It is still alive and well, no matter the discord or the rantings of those that traffic in fear.

It was to this “small, great world” - Greece - that President Barack Obama travelled as his last trip overseas as head of state. He wanted to celebrate what he still believed is the core of the United States - democracy - even after the unexpected presidency of Donald Trump.

“I still believe the fundamental desire to have control over our own lives, and our future and our nations; these yearnings are universal. They burn in every human heart. That is why the most important office in any country is not President or Prime Minister. The most important title is citizen,” he said.

“The belief in equality before the law - not just for a few, but for the many; not just for the majority, but also the minority.”

This is what all immigrants sacrifice for. This freedom, this democracy - the heart and soul of what initially was conceived as these United States of America. The right to be a citizen.

June is Immigrant Heritage Month. It seems strange to be celebrating it in a nation that at present dehumanizes immigrants.

But we should celebrate it, because the few can never take away what was built by the many - who have, in turn, become one.

E Pluribus Unum - a nation of immigrants. That will never change. It is still the New Colossus that guides us with her light towards that golden door of liberty.

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