When Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that he was inviting me to deliver the city’s annual Fourth of July oration at historic Faneuil Hall, I was honored, grateful and overwhelmed.
Honored because I was aware of the historic significance of the event. I was aware that great leaders including John Adams, John Hancock and John F. Kennedy had been chosen to deliver the address in the past. And I was grateful because I love the city of Boston and its unique immigrant pride and history.
The immigrant pride I’m talking about is something I know about on a personal level, because my family is among the millions of American families whose ancestors came to the United States in search of freedom, independence and opportunity. I also know about that pride and history through my public life because I’ve had the honor of leading Boston — a city of immigrants — as mayor.
I have come to know so many people from countries around the world who have to come to America to enjoy the freedom and opportunity this country offers. These immigrants have worked hard, raised strong families, paid their taxes, defended this country and played by the rules.
Many of these immigrants defended a democracy that required law and order to survive — and to escape anarchy, division and violence in their homelands.
They came to this country because our Constitution guarantees everyone life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They also came because ours is a country of laws that protect the innocent.
The immigrants I’m talking about practiced what JFK famously said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
The truth is that it has been immigrants who have made this country great — and despite what you may have heard during this election cycle, we don’t have to make America great again — we need to continue to treat immigrants with dignity and respect so that we will keep the country great.
There is one area, however, where we have to do more to keep America great — and that is providing quality health care for those who need it most.
As proud as I am of this country, I am disappointed with America’s health care system, particularly its lack of commitment and focus on child health.
If anyone cares to remember anything this old Boston politician ever said, let them remember this: America provides its citizens and its immigrants the opportunity to make their dreams come true.
But for far too many of our nation’s children, their dreams are impaired by poor health, poverty, abuse, lack of education and scant employment opportunities in the future.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The first wealth is health.”
Let’s provide the wealth of health for our people and especially our children. That is what we need to do to make America truly great.
Raymond L. Flynn is a former mayor of Boston and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.Immigrant