In honor of Independence Day, LISC CEO Maurice A. Jones reflects on how our country has thrived and prospered thanks in large part to the contributions of immigrants. Now is a time, says Jones, to recommit to the American promise of extending opportunity to all.
And to that point, we are sharing a video story about our longtime partner, the Washington D.C.-based Latin American Youth Center. For 50 years, LAYC has helped disconnected youth, U.S. born and recent immigrants, navigate the journey to adulthood, so that they can flourish and contribute to the economic and civic life of our country.
As we celebrate the anniversary of our country’s independence this week, I find myself reflecting on a conversation I had nearly three years ago with a college student in Havana, Cuba. I was there as part of a trade mission with the mayor of Washington D.C. and government officials from neighboring Maryland jurisdictions.
This talented, poised young woman, one of our guides, was clearly knowledgeable and hard-working. She loved Cuba deeply and confessed that her greatest desire was to move to the United States to finish her education and make a life here. She believed that America held the chance for her to be everything that she could be, and she was willing to leave behind her loved ones and her cherished homeland to harness that American promise. She then asked me: as an African American, did I believe that promise was still real?
I responded with an unqualified and emphatic “yes!” I told her about all the individuals and institutions—my family, my church, my high school teachers, my coaches, my college professors and mentors—that had taken a chance on me and propelled me into an adulthood filled with blessings and a fulfilling professional journey. I shared examples of talented people I have encountered over the course of my career, from all walks of life, who have seized opportunities to flourish and make invaluable contributions to the society around them.
The promise that young Cuban sought is what I hope we acknowledge and honor this week. It is really a mutual promise, a mutual commitment: she was willing to make a bet on America. For that wager to pay off, Americans must be willing to bet on her in return. That’s how we all benefit; that’s how America stays competitive.
Throughout the history of this country, immigrants have taken a chance on us because America held the promise of opportunity. As a result, our nation has prospered and become a more perfect union. Now is a time for us to recommit to this mutual invitation and to resist the temptation to become weary on our journey. LISC’s work, in rural and urban communities throughout our land, reveals the invaluable contributions of immigrants. In fact, the places where we invest are home to 1.5 times more foreign-born residents than most American communities.
In that spirit, we want to share with you a video about our longtime partner, the Latin American Youth Center. For 50 years, LAYC has supported Washington D.C. area youth, including many who immigrated here as children--to help them realize their enormous potential and contribute to the civic and economic life of this country. LISC is proud to have supported LAYC for two decades, investing more than $2 million in its people and programs. As you’ll see, there’s much to celebrate.
Wishing you all a peaceful and happy 4th of July!