I want to wish all AARO members and Americans overseas a happy 244th Independence Day for the United States of America from myself and the other members of the AARO Board.
This is my first message to you as president since I assumed the office on 11 May. I apologize for not having sent anything sooner, but this has been both a busy and unusual time. Busy, because of the myriad aspects of such a transition of leadership. Unusual, because the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has provoked so many unexpected changes and disruptions that it has been hard to function “normally,” as if that word still has any meaning.
The longer it took me to focus on sending out this message, the harder it has been simply to focus on the usual sort of update on what is happening within AARO or of what the association’s priorities will be in the months ahead. I hope to provide that in the not too distant future.
My focus now is on the Fourth of July and what it at least represents to me at this moment in our country’s history. All Americans have witnessed the reaction to the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis more than a month ago. It has highlighted what, for me, has been a painful and shameful reality for pretty much my entire life. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and well remember the major battles of the civil rights movement; the long, hot summers of discontent; and the assassination of Martin Luther King and the ensuing riots in a number of major American cities. Like many Americans, I long hoped that the country would address the twin and often overlapping issues of racism and tolerance of police abuse.
No matter what side of the political divide one happens to be, the United States is once more having to face these issues head on. In that context, I wish to affirm AARO’s strong support for diversity and the necessity of mutual respect among all Americans, regardless of race, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, color, or religion. Such respect must include equal treatment under the law, as stipulated by various provisions of the US constitution.
Since the 1950s, the official motto of the United States has been “In God we trust.” I, however, have always taken greater comfort and inspiration from the second motto: “E pluribus unum,” Latin for “Out of many, one.” Most scholars assert that this was intended to refer to how the thirteen original colonies that formed the United States came together as one national entity. I have always preferred to see it also as a true expression of the so-called great melting pot of the US whose true success and strength has been the diversity of its people, most of whom trace their family origins to other corners of the world. E pluribus unum was the unofficial motto of the US until Cold War politics caused the Congress to displace it in 1956 with “In God we trust” in order to stand in firm contrast with the official atheism of our communist adversaries. It may have made sense in geopolitical terms, but I regret that it appeared to diminish America’s appreciation of its diversity.
This is a major election year, and I would be remiss not to encourage all Americans at this solemn and celebratory time of year to do their utmost to exercise their hard-won right to vote. Whatever your political point of view, the future of the United States is in your hands. AARO is mobilized to help you in this regard and will continue to inform you and accompany you until the November elections. We will keep you informed about our outreach to those running for office as it pertains to the issues that concern Americans overseas the most. Please don’t hesitate to contact AARO to tell us what matters the most to you.
With all my best wishes for a happy Fourth and beyond,
President, Association of Americans Resident Overseas