Addict (drugaddict) wrote,

Tom Friedman on American Diversity--NYTimes 6/7/06

Needless to say, the author is not one of my favorite columnists. (For
one thing he relentlessly promotes his book, which has already sold
zillions of copies, by sneaking references to "the world is flat" into
his columns.) But I'm circulating this piece for two reasons: (1) he
makes a good point; and (2) by sheer chance we attended the same
graduation ceremony that he did and that he writes about. He was seated
one row and several seats away from us in an enormous arena. Along with
our daughter and her husband, we were attending the graduation from
Montgomery Blair High School of our grand-daughter Katherine Frank, a
few names away on the alphabetical list in the program of graduating
seniors from the name of Natalie Friedman, the author's daughter. I
regret the author's bashing of Muslims in a gratuitous paragraph. He
might have restrained himself, for along with the myriad names of
obvious Hispanic, African, Indian, and East Asian ethnicity, there were
a few Arabic/Muslim names besides the one with which he begins his list
in this column. He could have started that list with the first two names
on the program list: Samr Abdelaziz and Benjamin Abdelrahman, for
example. But never mind, his point is well taken. End comment.

June 7, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

 A Well of Smiths and Xias


Muhammad Waqar, Avi Wolfman-Arent, Yiran Xia, Victoria Sandoval,
Jacqueline Orellana-Flores, Elizabeth Packer, Ramona Singh, Anuja Shah,
Mayra Ramos, Emily-Kate Hannapel, Natasha Perez, Samir Paul, Ekta
Taneja, Linden Vongsathorn, Michael Tsai, Nardos Teklebrahan, Matiwos
Wondwosen ...

I went to a high school graduation Monday and a United Nations meeting
broke out.

The commencement was my daughter Natalie's, the high school was
Montgomery Blair in Silver Spring, Md. There were some 700 kids
receiving their diplomas, and as I sat there for two hours listening to
each one's name pronounced, I became both fascinated and touched by the
stunning diversity — race, religion, ethnicity — of the graduating
class. I knew my daughter's school was diverse, but I had no idea it was
this diverse.

The names above, which I just pulled from the graduation book, were
typical of her entire class, which included exactly five people named
"Smith." In my high school in Minnesota it seemed like there were only
five people not named "Smith."

My daughter told me that the names in her class can be so difficult to
pronounce that for graduation the school had all the students write
their names phonetically on a card so the announcer would not mangle
them in front of family and friends.

There is a lot to be worried about in America today: a war in Iraq that
is getting worse not better, an administration whose fiscal
irresponsibility we will be paying for for a long time, an education
system that is not producing enough young Americans skilled in math and
science, and inner cities where way too many black males are failing. We
must work harder and get smarter if we want to maintain our standard of

But if there is one reason to still be optimistic about America it is
represented by the stunning diversity of the Montgomery Blair class of
2006. America is still the world's greatest human magnet. We are not the
only country that embraces diversity, but there is something about our
free society and free market that still attracts people like no other.
Our greatest asset is our ability to still cream off not only the
first-round intellectual draft choices from around the world but the
low-skilled-high-aspiring ones as well, and that is the main reason that
I am not yet ready to cede the 21st century to China. Our Chinese will
still beat their Chinese.

This influx of brainy and brawny immigrants is our oil well — one that
never runs dry. It is an endless source of renewable human energy and
creativity. Congress ought to stop debating gay marriage and finally
give us a framework to maintain a free flow of legal immigration.

What is so striking about Blair is that it is just a neighborhood public
high school. It was not designed to be diverse. Yes, it has some magnet
programs, but for the most part it just reflects its surroundings —
about one-third black, one-third Hispanic and one-third Noah's Ark of
everyone else.

As I mingled with the other parents afterward, waiting for our kids to
emerge from the ceremony, I found myself at one point surrounded by
families in which no one was speaking English.

The only familiar voice that came through the din was one that made me
laugh — an African-American mom, gripping her child's diploma, saying:
"This diploma is mine! I'm keeping this!" She said she had worked as
hard as her kid for this day. Bless her heart, as I am sure she spoke
for many parents.

It is hard to watch a graduation like this and not think about our
enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan — the Taliban, Islamo-totalitarians like
bin Laden and Zarqawi, and the retrograde regimes that support them.
Their whole mind-set is about how to purify their world from "the
other," from diversity, from "infidels." With enough brutality, they may
win in Iraq. I still hope not.

But they will never win the future — because as soon as their oil wells
run dry, their societies will be as barren, bland and unproductive as
their deserts.

Our oil wells, by contrast, will still be pumping. They're right there,
hiding in plain sight, in the Blair commencement book:

Yueyang Li, Kenia Lopez-Reyes, Lucy Fromyer, Raya Steinberg, Zahra
Gordon, Sreva Ghosh, Juan-Jesus Louis, Yendil Furcal, Yenusa Eke,
Sofonias Frezghi, Yohanes Dejen, Edra Comegys-Brisbane, Yoel
Castillio-Ortiz, Elijah Zuares, Placido Zelaya, Mimi Zou. And Jessica
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