I believe our country is a great country. We live in a land where opportunities and possibilities abound. Our land is vast, stretching from one sea to another. Our spirit is vast, too. In my work teaching students learning English as a second language, I’ve come to appreciate the opportunities I once took for granted. My students brave untold hardships to come to the United States. Some are legal, some are not. But they see the U.S. as holding untold wealth and possibility, and they are eager to accept this American dream. They embrace the idea of paying taxes, having freedom to say their minds, and choose their religions. Imagine that – people who celebrate the idea of paying taxes as a way of giving back to a country that offers them such opportunities! I certainly never saw it that way. I teach in an affluent area. In fact, I have grown up with privilege all my life. But never have I appreciated the truth and beauty of the U.S. until I worked with these students and heard their descriptions of the golden land to which they are drawn. Perhaps I do not always agree with the government, but through their eyes I realize that I am lucky enough to be able to say this without fear of persecution. My students teach me that for all of its flaws, the U.S. really is a great country. I’ve learned that even as poor as they are, they feel they have much greater wealth than they could in their home countries. My students show me everyday that I cannot take my citizenship and my privileges for granted. I cannot brush my duties aside as I eagerly reach for my rights. Serving on a jury, making informed decisions in elections, and yes, even paying taxes are symbols of my citizenship, not petty annoyances to be avoided. My family came here seeking the same opportunities my students do, and I know I am fortunate they did. My students have taught me that I live in a great land. I believe the United States and its spirit is large enough to accommodate them all. This, I believe.
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