A Long Way Home in America

Aurora Martin, Director

On Independence Day, my family volunteered at a homeless shelter, joining men, women, and children whose lives demonstrate American resilience.  It is the kind of resilience which I have to believe will someday lead them home.

Tonight, we reflect on the values of Independence Day: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." We reflect on both that original promise of freedom for some and the hard consequences for countless native families, slaves, and scores of immigrants who have taken the long way home in America.

I want to believe that the homeless shelter, located between a strip mall and some car dealerships, is en route to something better, and represents more than just a temporary refuge for the families we’re visiting today.

I want to believe that recent rulings from our Supreme Court are positive signs of change. From the legitimizing of gay marriage to upholding health care for all, we are getting closer to fostering a sense of belonging and security, values that speak of home.

I want to believe, in the twilight of President Obama’s administration, while we grapple with immigration crises, the killings in Charleston, and churches that burn again and again in former colonies that once united in a quest for independence and freedom, that a national conversation—about race, discrimination, and the central questions about what it means to be an “American”–is finally getting under way.

I want to believe that we are morally advanced and intellectually honest. That we are ready to understand and remedy the institutional inequities and the endemic poverty that has perpetuated through generations.

For now, our task is simply to bring a Fourth of July dinner to the second floor of a makeshift dining hall in an otherwise vacant building that used to be a bank. 

I pause to appreciate the irony of this place and I am reminded that, in America, some must take the long way home. But home is the place we are all trying to reach.