Today, the first Friday in October, is National Diversity Day, a time to recognize the need for diversity in our culture and in our daily lives.
In order to understand the impact of diversity today, though, it's probably to first think about diversity in our nation's history.
Our nation was in fact founded upon diversity. People who wanted to worship in their own way came to America to exercise their religion in the way they wanted. They were the aliens, the newcomers, to a place inhabited by the First Nations, people who had been here for millenia.
As those who had come here long before made room for them, the newcomers created settlements. Crude and unvarnished at first, eventually they became cities.
As the pioneers moved west, they encountered the native peoples. Some encounters were good, some not, but eventually they found their way to the coast where they found people already there - Spanish and British and Russian. Again, at least to start, Americans were the foreigners, the guests.
As our nation grew, others came. One group that felt particular discrimination was the Irish - shanty Irish some called them - but they embraced a new way of life.
Others came. Italians, Slavs, Chinese. All at one time or another were discriminated against. But in time, all found their place in American society.
Today, we still struggle with new people coming to our country. As the immigration debate continues, we ask the same questions that we have since our country was founded.
Do these people belong? If so, should they speak the language? Should they learn our customs and way of life, and if so, in how short of a time.
Before we ask those questions though, let's first ask them of our ancestors.
Did they belong here? If so, how long did it take them to learn the language. Did they learn our customs and way of life in a short time?
And if the answers to all those questions are no, then we should ask ourselves if today even we would be here.