I’m deeply moved when Florida Senator Marco Rubio speaks about exile.
Critics quibble about when his parents fled Cuba (after Batista? because of Fidel?), but those who know exile know what he means.
Their hearts measure the deep rift between native home and adopted home.
Exiles know what Rubio means when he writes about being An American Son. (That’s the title of his autobiography — at 41 — to be released tomorrow.)
America offered freedom.
Exiles share the courage it took for Rubio’s parents to flee their home, to start anew in a land with a different language, different culture, and different traditions.
America offered hope.
Hard work and joy at learning all the new ways of this adopted homeland gave Rubio’s parents the grounding their children needed to get an education.
The kid from the working class graduated from law school, became a rising star in politics, and beat a governor to win a Senate seat.
Just like that.
I’m watching Rubio, whose name figures already on a future presidential run, after only two years in Washington.
I’m watching him because he speaks to many in this country bruised by anti-immigrant rhetoric. They’ve watched that rhetoric grow into restricted opportunities, and tightened freedoms in a land of immigrants.
I’m watching Rubio, because he’s bold enough to answer that rhetoric with legislative schemes that would give American sons and daughters of exiles the same freedom and opportunity with which he was blessed.
President Barack Obama couldn’t convince Congress to pass the DREAM Act.
But one American son recognizes another, regardless of political ideology. Obama is intent on guiding Rubio’s compromise into action.
I hope that their coming together on doing the right thing for immigrants’ children shows America that consensus is possible.
Even in a fractious election year.
I am grateful that the sons of immigrants and exiles are teaching us a new language of inclusion.
I’m grateful for their courageous leadership, and for reminding all in America that someone in their family once endured hardship to reach this land too.