Tom Tancredo’s grandfather was the first member of his family to immigrate to the United States in the early 1900s. Tancredo’s grandparents adapted to American culture adopting the English language and learning American history.
Tancredo, a former presidential candidate and five-term Congressman, discussed his thoughts Tuesday on immigration focusing on assimilation. The talk was sponsored by the Wabash College Conservative Union.
“To my grandparents it was important to first speak American in the assimilation process,” Tancredo said. “It was important for them and it was important for America to have this process going on. The word ‘assimilation’ is frowned upon now because people think it means giving up something to accept something.
“Because we come from so many different places, backgrounds, and attitudes, something has to happen to connect us and the one place to start is the language.”
Tancredo was careful in discussing cultural backgrounds. He said it is important to remember our heritage, but to also support American culture because we are Americans.
Adam Brasich ’11 found Tancredo’s statements relevant to American society and our identity as Americans.
“He raised some very valid points,” Brasich said. “Focusing on multiculturalism, I thought he answered what it means to be a nation of immigrants and how we relate our ethnic heritage to American culture very well. I mean, how do I think about my own Croatian ancestry in regards to being an American? I think representative Tancredo had a very good answer to how we can represent our heritage and what ultimately comes first.”
Tancredo contested that most immigrants come to America for financial benefits, but do not want to be ‘Americans.’ That is, they do not want to adopt American culture. He stated that finding one’s place in a culture is based on knowing your enemy and knowing who you are. He defended that his points are not racial.
“I am not being racist,” he said. “I do not care what heritage anyone is from as long as they assimilate with American culture. This issue has nothing to do with race and people are fast to assume I am being racist because most illegal immigrants are from Mexico.”
Andrew Forrester ’11 thought Tancredo clarified his statements very well and that his points are relevant to our society.
“The talk was very thought provoking” Forrester said. “A lot of people say that he is so far right and what he is advocating is racist, but I think he did a great job of clarifying his statements and what he is actually talking about in tonight’s talk.”
“I was just talking with some men who are political liberals and yet they are saying we can find common ground in Tancredo’s talk because we all come from ancestors who are of different descent.”
The Wabash Conservative Union’s Events Coordinator and Business Manager Jeremy Wentzel ’14 thought Tancredo would help the Conservative Union “create a splash” on campus.
“We wanted to bring some dynamic speakers to campus this time around,” Wentzel said. “We thought that Tom Tancredo was a great person to bring in. He engaged a lot of people and he used real world examples when you cannot use book examples. It was a real theoretical approach, but he brought everything back to real life.”
Tancredo ended his talk asking if America actually has a culture. He acknowledged that having a diverse culture is important, but that we need common ground in order to bind us together as a people.
“Do we have an American culture?” he said. “If so, do we have a right to hold onto it?”
Photos by Alex Moseman '11