Stewart Acuff

Nov 13

America is strong, unafraid, welcoming – just like our President.

Now that the election is over, I read that rank-and-file Republicans are disappointed, bewildered, thinking America was their country and, as such, couldn’t elect a President that was “unlike them.”

They forget or never learned that America doesn’t belong to some of us, but that it belongs to all of us: the Ethiopian cabdrivers and Salvadoran housekeepers who live in my Washington neighborhood, the two lesbian schoolteachers who live at the end of my block, the NOAA scientist next door, the African-American retired cop who lives around the corner, the phys ed teacher who lives at the other end of my block, and America’s greatest living writer, George Pelecanos, who lives around the other corner as does the doctor from Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Pelecanos and the doctor don’t have to live in my diverse working class neighborhood. Unlike me, they could afford to live in Washington’s toniest suburbs. I assume they like the diversity and the life and the people where we live.

And in many ways, President Barack Obama stands for all that is good in America and in my neighborhood.

Because America at its best is open, welcoming, not bigoted, not afraid, caring even loving instead of hating.

You see America is a great country, but it is also a great idea and a great ideal.

147 years ago, a lot of folks fought hard to balkanize America, to divide it geographically much the way Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan wanted to divide America financially – casting aside the 47% as Romney said or the 30% as Ryan said. Even now Ann Coulter says that America has more takers than makers. But they are all wrong.

We are all takers and makers. You cannot say the Salvadoran housekeepers and Ethiopian cabdrivers are takers, because as poor as they are, they work much harder and sacrifice much more than Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or Ann Coulter. And you can’t say Romney is just a maker. He takes through our bankruptcy system. The trucks owned by the rich drive on highways people sweated and ached to build.

America is all of us, and it is meant to be all of us. It is like my Aunt Julia’s beautiful Tennessee quilts pieced together with bits of fabric and material that by themselves are nothing, but put on a quilting rack and sewn together stuffed with cotton matting they are beautiful, warm, comforting.

America is all of us strong, unafraid, welcoming – just like our President.


Stewart Acuff is the former organizing Director of the AFL-CIO. Acuff has also written two books: Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing, and Getting America Back to Work.

Playing Bigger Than You Are - A Life in OrganizingGet the e-book edition of Playing Bigger Than You Are by clicking here!

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