Don’t Forget What Makes America Great– Our Diversity

As we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend and remember those who have died for our country in military service, let’s not forget that our young men and women continue to fight to preserve our democratic society and the personal freedoms that define our way of life.

In his new book, The Post-American World, Council on Foreign Relations member Fareed Zakaria reflects on many of the challenges that we face as a country in the 21st century. He also reflects on the strengths that make America unique.

When I describe what makes the Silicon Valley eco-system for entrepreneurs unique and, in my view, exceedingly difficult to duplicate, my description mirrors what Zakaria describes as America’s core strength:

” Per capita, it turns out, the United States trains more engineers than either of the Asian giants. … America’s hidden secret is that most of these engineers are immigrants. Foreign students and immigrants account for almost 50 percent of all science researchers in the country. . . . Half of all Silicon Valley start-ups have one founder who is an immigrant or first generation American. The potential for a new burst of American productivity depends not on our education system or R&D spending, but on our immigration policies. If these people are allowed and encouraged to stay, then innovation will happen here. If they leave, they’ll take it with them. More broadly, this is America’s great– and potentially insurmountable– strength. It remains the most open, flexible society in the world, able to absorb other people, cultures, ideas, goods, and services. The country thrives on the hunger and energy of poor immigrants.”

I am a first generation American who, by the good fortune of being born and raised and Puerto Rico, was an American citizen before my immigrant parents were naturalized. But for the ultimate sacrifices made by American soldiers against the Nazis in World War II, I would not be here.

This Memorial Day, let’s also not forget that the lifeblood of innovation and entrepreneurship comes from many places, but it has found a uniquely fertile soil in an America that embraces and celebrates diversity.


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