When I was a kid, I learned in school that the United States was the best country in the world because we were a melting pot. No matter where you came from, no matter your color, creed, or bank account, you could come here, learn English, work hard, and become an American.
When teachers sometimes asked if our grandparents were Italian, or Irish, or French-Canadian based on our last names, it wasn’t awkward because we knew we were all immigrants, or Native American. The main idea was that our strength came from our diversity and it was something uniquely American - something to be proud of.
But now there’s a lot of fear on TV and online and a lot of people, both in the U.S. and Europe, are talking about the need to keep immigrants out of our countries - by means of immigration bans, and walls, and quotas, and there’s a lot of mean talk too that’s not at all welcoming. Our kids are hearing very different messages now than the ones I heard back when I was going to school.
So I’m glad to see a new message of inclusion that’s going viral in Vermont right now. The message is expressed with a simple, powerful graphic created by students at Burlington High School. It shows upturned, open hands that seem to support and protect a dove with the text “ALL ARE WELCOME.”
Many Vermont teachers have displayed the ALL ARE WELCOME image on the doors to their classrooms, and I’ve seen it on office windows at UVM too. Some schools are using it to prompt discussions about diversity and inclusion, and the Rowland Foundation has used the image to invite teachers to apply for a grant to do diversity work at their schools. I’ve seen the beautiful ALL ARE WELCOME image pop up on Twitter, Facebook, and even in email accounts.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Françoise, Odreille, Radhika, and the Burlington High School International Club for creating ALL ARE WELCOME. With teacher Susan Blethen, Dr. Andrea Green, and designer Tyler Littwin they’ve changed the message our children are hearing. In a time of fear and rising xenophobia, they’ve made sure that immigrants and new Americans are hearing a message of inclusion. In a climate of noisy mistrust, they’ve made a difference by reminding us what democracy is all about: ALL ARE WELCOME.