American by Belief Review: The students I teach are just as "American" as those who were born here

By Emily Jacobs

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As we approach a historic election, it is important to remember that politics is personal. What we believe about public policy reflects our deepest personal values. The president is no different. When visiting Lincoln’s cottage, the stories told in each room helped me to feel how President Lincoln personally devoted himself to believing in the Union and its citizens. One of the most inspirational exhibits that I experienced at the cottage was American by Belief, which outlines Americans’ immigration history over time, including Lincoln’s policy. American By Belief reminds us that our country is bound together by a common theme: people throughout our history choose to come to the United States to pursue greater economic, religious and personal freedom. This powerful exhibit demonstrated to me that Lincoln understood the value of each individual and embraced policies to reflect that.

President Lincoln came to these beliefs through his travels to and from the cottage into Washington D.C. As he traveled, he solidified his open-mindedness. Like Lincoln, my career shaped my personal beliefs. I’ve had the opportunity to be inspired by newcomer, immigrant students who are taking US History for the first time. My students have come from many different countries with a variety of native languages, religions, beliefs and legal statuses but almost always, they appreciate and embrace learning about the culture and history of their new country. The students I have been blessed to teach are just as “American” as those who were born here; they are American by Belief, rather than by birth, but they should be equally valued as people. What I loved about this exhibit is that it allows people of all walks of life to feel connected to one another through their stories, whether it was them who immigrated here first or their ancestors long ago. Most importantly, I love how this exhibit reminds us that people can be American by the way they contribute to and appreciate our country; Lincoln understood this and so should our next President. President Lincoln’s cottage and the ideas he had there are inspiring and still relevant today. It teaches us that we should all strive to be American By Belief and and I hope our next President will appreciate the diverse legacy left to us by President Abraham Lincoln.

For more information on the American by Belief exhibit, click here.

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