Recently, the Chamber of the Americas celebrated a townhall about the future of international trade and business especially as it relates to the Western Hemisphere. This is an area that has been largely neglected as our country attempts to reestablish its economic footing after the Great Recession and engages in a war on terror centered in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Europe as well as at home.
The townhall titled “Isolationism v Globalism” in business generated a lot of discussion but little controversy or disagreements. It was evident that the attendees were well within the “Globalist” camp as it is what they do in their day to day work.
The topic was scheduled to reflect on another national conversation raised during our recent presidential campaigns about whether the United States should maintain its global role or take a step back and focus more on an America First agenda that requires that we retrench to more exclusively national interests. As I thought back on the business context of the conversation at the townhall luncheon, I also thought about the companion to this expression of American capitalism that is democracy.
Like many Americans, I also realize that both democracy and capitalism need to constantly grow or if not they will atrophy and die in short order. The history of the growth of these two concepts has taken our country on the road to becoming a global superpower and leader of the free world.
As a Latino, I have been on that ride with my family and my community. Only, our journey started long before the issue of globalism came into the picture.
I remember being the best reader in my first grade class yet not recognized because as a “Mexican” there were other “Americans” that better deserved the kind words from the teacher. I remember my father sharecropping a 40 acre cotton field and coming out with 76 dollars at the end of a long year and yards and yards of adding machine tape.
I remember my parents chipping in a quarter so that my grandfather could have the 3 dollars he needed to pay for the poll tax that would allow him vote in Texas. With the pennies, nickles and quarters he collected went our aspirations to an America that would see us as worthy.
I remember the scorn on the faces of many as we marched for civil rights, justice and some sort of fairness. I remember how alone I felt as I navigated my higher education journey with no one to talk to or that would understand the nature of my experience.
I also remember the satisfaction I felt as my children faced the challenges of school and the world of work and service with full confidence and expectation that the country was also theirs. For ours as other Latino families, life in a free and democratic nation has been an evolving story that must continue. There is still much to change in order to make room for a new and growing demography.
Change has been the story of America since its very beginning and change in the 21st Century is even more rapid. This has created a temptation on the part of many to turn the clock back and find solace in a time where they were more in control.
However the time they aspire to is also the time that my family was less than second class. So, I vote to continue the journey forward to greater freedom and a more perfect democracy.