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JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: A burning question: Why lutefisk dinners?

If we are so concerned about foreigners entering our country, why do we continue to teach modern languages in our schools? Why do we continue to preach in our churches that we should show compassion for all people? Why do we continue to teach in our schools about the value of cultures? Why do we send our kids to Concordia Language Villages? Why do we have language immersion schools? Why do we have Ojibwa language signage on business doors? And, why, pray tell, do we continue to have lutefisk dinners? Aren't all of these anti-American?

Our current thinking seems to suggest that we should do away with the above activities and close our doors to people who are not like us. Isn't it about time we took care of ourselves first?

Our young people must be confused. I can hear a young person ask, "But what about what it says on the Statue of Liberty?" "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

"Lo siento, todo el mundo. La puerta de oro de los Estados Unidos ahora esta cerrada." (I'm sorry everyone. The United States' golden door is now closed.)

These mixed messages are troublesome and they breed hateful thinking resulting in hateful crimes. Adults have to be as confused as young people. Should teachers teach, for example, that bullying is good? Should churches now teach to think of oneself first and others second? Is becoming a police state a good thing with armed guards at every establishment?

We forget that every white person in the United States is here because their grandparents immigrated here when they heard about that golden door in the New York Harbor. My great grandparents came here from Germany in the late 1800s and settled in Iowa and in Minnesota. German was their first language and they became bilingual. My wife's great grandparents came from Poland and Czechoslovakia. Her great grandparents also became bilingual and passed through that same golden door.

The only people in the United States who were not immigrants were our indigenous neighbors who belonged to one of 500 tribes who all spoke a different language. Talk about multiculturalism! For the most part, Native people were very kind to those strange looking white people in big boats. Only when they discovered they couldn't be trusted did conflicts arise and we know how that turned out. White people have been trying to apologize ever since for their hypocrisy.

It really is confounding when you think that after 250 years of trying to show compassion to all our neighbors (even to our enemies after the great wars), there are among us people who still cannot accept others who are of a different color or creed and who may speak a different language or dress differently. Can't they remember where they came from?

So here we have a caravan of people whose blood is red just like yours and mine but who speak a different language and are marching—yes, marching—from Honduras in Central America to find peace and tranquility in the United States. Why are they coming? They are coming for the same reasons relatives and my relatives came to the United States those many years ago. They are fleeing because their lives are being threatened and they feel a better life awaits them in the United States of America. (I hope they don't read the papers or watch TV.)

Estimates from 3,000 to 7,000 migrants of men, women and children make up this "invading" caravan that started in Honduras. They walk wearing flip-flops many parents carrying their children on a journey of 1,500 miles with limited amounts of food and water and no money. Can you imagine? How desperate must one be to make this walk? Will they find our golden door open or closed or will they find an army telling them to turn around and go home? "Nuestra puerta esta cerrada." I can't imagine that we Americans would tolerate such cruelty.

In 2016, 1.49 million foreign-born individuals moved to the United States. India was the leading country of origin, with 175,100 arriving in 2016, followed by 160,200 from China/Hong Kong, 150,400 from Mexico and 54,700 from Cuba. The number of people making up the caravan are a drop in the bucket compared to the number we annually accept.

So why is everyone getting so uptight? Why? Because some people are making everyone believe that the caravan represents an invading army, which is coming here to rob and plunder and take our jobs and tell us we need to take siestas, say "Hola" and eat tortillas.

What is the right course of action for true Americans? We should be proud to welcome all immigrants to our borders. We should take pride that we value other cultures. We should take pride in the fact that we teach foreign languages in our schools and that young people have the opportunity to attend Concordia Language Villages. We should take pride in our teachers who teach that there is no one best culture but all are worthy of recognition. We should be very proud that we have Ojibwa signage on doors. Religious leaders should continue to teach compassion. We should continue to teach that bullying from young and old is not acceptable. We should continue to recognize that immersion school programs are a good way to learn languages and cultures. Most of all, yes, let us never forget the value of a lutefisk dinner to remind us that our great grandparents came to our shores and found the golden door wide open.

Riddle: Why is history the sweetest lesson? Because it is full of dates. It is also sweet because it reminds us of our heritage and who we are.

100 percent graduation rate

A local movement is underway to ensure the area has a 100 percent high school graduation rate.

1. Teachers need to find ways to engage students in the life of the school.

2. Teachers and parents need to ask students "What did you learn today?"

3. Teachers should call students by name at least once a day. A good way to do this is when kids enter the class. If it is too difficult teachers can take out their roster and specifically identify those students who they have not recognized lately.

Remember, only we can help kids graduate.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.

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