America, The Melting Pot

John - Oak Harbor, Washington
Entered on March 4, 2009
Age Group: 65+

I believe that the strength of the United States comes from the blending of the many peoples that make up our nation. This “Melting Pot” concept has fallen into some disfavor as the movement to preserve distinct cultures has grown. We are being separated into niches of Black, Native American, Hispanic, White, and Other. This is detrimental to our strength and unity.

I am an example of an “other”. My father was born in Laoag, Philippines and my mother’s parents were immigrants from Lithuania. I was born and raised in New York City.

My early years were spent living in Italian Harlem. I walked through a part of Spanish Harlem to reach the subway station on my way to school. I played basketball on the “Harlem Trotters’ an all negro basketball team. I attended a German Lutheran church. A large percentage of my classmates in grade school and high school were Jewish. In grade school each morning we said the Pledge of Allegiance and often followed it singing the Jewish “Rock of Ages”. I even joined the YWHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) to take advantage of the great gymnasium and the chicken soup served in the cafeteria. I was always a minority and so I assumed I belonged with whomever I was with. Whenever I was asked what I was I replied, “An American”.

I relate to the English heritage of our founding fathers. My musical taste includes jazz, the “Blues”, Bach, Tito Puente, and Fado. I like dancing the cha cha and Rumba (but regret that I can’t do the Tango). Italian and oriental cuisines are my favorites. My wife calls me the Jewish Prince (Re: Norah Ephron).

I am proud of my Philippino and Lithuanian heritages but I have tried to absorb the strengths of the many other cultures that I have experienced. My wife’s antecedents came from Switzerland in the 1860s. My sister married into an Irish family and we have embraced Jewish, French and Mexican cultures into our families.

We should be proud of the accomplishments of every culture as those of fellow Americans. Let’s celebrate all of their holidays. Isn’t everyone a little bit Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day?

Maybe the United States is not so much a melting pot as a stew pot. The different cultures are the spices that make the stew so great.

So I make my Matzos balls (for chicken soup), thin pizza (Napolitano), my father’s Adobo, and strive to produce my Grandmother’s Lithuanian potato kugel.