I have long been of the opinion that anyone who chooses to live in the United States must be an American. We have too many people living here who refuse to assimilate. There are people who fly the flags of other nations, people who claim they are offended by the American flag, people who refuse to learn English. There are simply too many hyphenated Americans, and too many people who want to change the laws of the nation.
I am no fan of Theodore Roosevelt because I have studied little about him and do not know much about his policies. However, I do agree with his ideas on the assimilation of immigrants into the American culture.
While serving as the governor of New York, Theodore Roosevelt was selected as the Republican candidate for vice president in the presidential election of 1900. Roosevelt served as vice president for less than a year when President William McKinley was assassinated on September 14, 1901. Roosevelt was elevated to the office of president and was elected to the office in 1904. He was chosen as a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for his negotiations leading to the Treaty of Portsmouth and the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.
Roosevelt left office in 1909 but remained active in politics into the last years of his life. During World War I Roosevelt often expressed his belief that immigrants to American should assimilate into American society as quickly as possible. In fact, he believed that Americans should insist that the immigrants learn the English language, express their allegiance to the United States of America, and drop any hyphenated national identities, such as Italian-American, German-American, or Japanese-American. He said that any immigrant that refused to learn the English language should be sent back to their nation of origin.
Roosevelt not only believed that immigrants should assimilate as quickly as possible to the American society, but that every immigrant who assimilates should be treated with equality. He believed that any immigrant that was more loyal to a foreign nation than the United States committed “moral treason” to the United States.
In a speech given in February 1916, Roosevelt uses the motto “America for Americans” and means the term to include those who were born American as well as those who were born elsewhere but became American.
[He declared] the salvation of our people lies in having a nationalized and unified America, ready for the tremendous tasks of both war and peace.
I appeal to all our citizens, no matter from what land their forefathers came, to keep this ever in mind, and to shun with scorn and contempt the sinister intriguers and mischiefmakers who would seek to divide them along lines of creed, or birthplace or of national origin.
The former president is adamant about the need for the nation to be unified. He insists that all the hyphens need to be dropped in order to overcome the divide within the nation.
The effort to keep our citizenship divided against itself by the use of the hyphen and along the lines of national origin is certain to a breed of spirit of bitterness and prejudice and dislike between great bodies of our citizens. If some citizens band together as German-Americans or Irish-Americans, then after a while others are certain to band together as English-Americans or Scandinavian-Americans, and every such banding together, every attempt to make for political purposes a German-American alliance or a Scandinavian-American alliance, means down at the bottom an effort against the interest of straight-out American citizenship, an effort to bring into our nation the bitter Old World rivalries and jealousies and hatreds.
In a speech on Independence Day in 1917, Roosevelt spoke on the importance of having unity in language. He even went so far as to urge that any foreign-language newspapers published in the U.S. should include English translations. “We must have in this country but one flag, and for the speech of the people but one language, the English language.”
Roosevelt obviously felt strongly that there should be one language spoken in the U.S. because he spoke on the subject again in May 1918. “This is a nation – not a polyglot boarding house. There is not room in the country for any 50-50 American, nor can there be but one loyalty – to the Stars and Stripes.”
A few months after the Armistice of World War I and shortly before his death in January 1919, Roosevelt left his final words on this topic. Even though he could not attend, his statement was read at an “All-American concert.”
I cannot be with you and so all I can do is to wish you Godspeed. There may be no sagging back in the fight for Americanism merely because the war is over.
There are plenty of persons who have already made the assertion that they believe the American people have a short memory and that they intend to revive all the foreign associations which more directly interfere with the complete Americanization of our people. Our principle in this matter should be absolutely simple.
In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here does in good faith become an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with every one else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American. (Emphasis added.)
If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of American, then he isn’t doing his part as an American.
We have room for but one flag, the American flag…. We have room for but one language here and that is the English language…. And we have room for but one soul [sic] loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.
It seems to me that Roosevelt was concerned that immigrants from Germany and Italy would not assimilate but would cause divisions in the United States. Today we are seeing some of the very divisions of which he spoke, but they are coming from different areas. We seldom hear about German-Americans or Italian-Americans, but we hear a lot about African-Americans and Mexican-Americans. We see much division because of their unwillingness to assimilate and become true Americans. We do not see too many people carrying flags from European nations, but we often see people carrying flags of Mexico. I agree that we have room for only one flag – the flag of the United States of America.
Roosevelt was also right on the money about the need for one language. The Census Report of 2015 reports that there are at least 350 different languages spoken in the United States. Many of these languages are spoken only in the home, but more and more people are using foreign languages in places of business.
There is no official language in the United States even though the debate about an official language has been around for many years. English is the unofficial language of the U.S. because the vast majority of the people living here speak English. Even though the federal government has not declared English to be the official language, 31 states have done so. Alaska is not one of those states due to the fact that there are so many Alaska Natives who speak only their native languages. However, I believe that the state and federal governments could save a lot of money by declaring English to be the official language and by conducting governmental business only in English.
In order for true unity to come to the United States, I believe that we must follow the counsel of Roosevelt. We must eliminate all references to hyphenated Americans because we are either American or not – no “50-50 Americans.” We must also insist that immigrants assimilate by encouraging them to learn the language of the United States – English, accept the Constitution and laws of American, and fly the flag of America. We must insist that America is for Americans – no matter the country of origin, race, or religion.