New York, January 31, 2008 – In an effort to broaden understanding of immigration policy among high school students, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) developed a discussion guide to accompany A Nation of Immigrants, President John F. Kennedy’s landmark essay, which has just been reissued with a new introduction by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and foreword by Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. The guide makes available to teachers and educators lessons and ideas that can be implemented in the secondary level classroom, and provides tools to help guide student reading, facilitate discussion and build critical thinking skills.
“This guide is an invaluable teaching tool that will enhance classroom discussion about an important and timely topic,” said Abraham H. Foxman. “It is especially important today, as anti-immigrant, xenophobic sentiments have entered the mainstream discourse“.
“It is critical for our youth to have a thorough understanding of immigration issues and to appreciate the important role immigrants play in our country’s past, present and future.”
When A Nation of Immigrants was first published in 1958, the country was locked in a fierce debate over the direction of our immigration policies. Today, as the issues of immigration and immigrants have taken center stage, the essay is as relevant as when it was written by John Fitzgerald Kennedy 50 years ago at the request of ADL.
That is why the Anti-Defamation League and Harper Perennial are reissuing this landmark essay on the contribution of immigrants to American society. With a new introduction by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants offers inspiring suggestions for immigration policy and presents a chronology of the main events in the history of immigration in America.
“The reissuing of A Nation of Immigrants on its 50th anniversary is not only commemorative but has great relevance for us today,” Abraham H. Foxman writes in the Foreword to the new edition. “Then, as now, nativism, bigotry and fear of competition from foreign labor were dulling the collective American memory of its own immigrant history and its ideals,” writes Mr. Foxman. “Then, as now, hate groups were beating the drums of anti-foreigner slogans and tried to sway the public and elected officials toward a restrictive immigration policy.”
A Nation of Immigrants was written by Kennedy in 1958 after ADL reached out to the then-junior senator from Massachusetts asking him to highlight the contribution of immigrants at a time when the country was locked in a debate about the direction its policy should take. As the last manuscript President Kennedy ever wrote, the book was first published posthumously.
“The history of this monograph is deeply intertwined with the story of America’s struggle for a fair and compassionate immigration policy,” said Mr. Foxman.
Through ADL’s network of 30 regional offices, there will be a series of local programs and events centered around the release of the new book and the Introduction and Foreword.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who has been at the forefront of calls for meaningful immigration, has described his brother’s essay as a seminal document in the struggle for immigration reform.
“Every time the Senate takes up the issue of immigration reform, I re-read my brother’s book for inspiration,” Senator Kennedy said last year in remarks to ADL’s National Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. “The words he wrote half a century ago ring just as true today.”
In his essay, John F. Kennedy wrote of immigration: “This was the secret of America: a nation of people with the fresh memory of old traditions who dared to explore new frontiers, people eager to build lives for themselves in a spacious society that did not restrict their freedom of choice and action.”