Community


By: Candy Chang

The strength of our nation springs from the unity of our diverse people. We are all in it together as Americans and human beings, not competitors or independent agents.

When we care about the progress of all members of our society, opportunity is no longer just about personal success but also about our success as a people. This ideal is embodied in the motto E Pluribus Unum—“from many, one”—that John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson proposed for the first Great Seal of the United States in 1776. The interdependence of community and opportunity is also expressed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”

And that there are certain things—from public transportation to national defense—that we simply cannot do on our own, whether as individuals or as individual cities, states, or corporations.

We fought and won a bloody civil war to preserve the unity of our nation and to forge a new respect for the diversity within it. We passed the Fourteenth Amendment to our Constitution to make plain that we belong to one nation, indivisible, and share the same rights, privileges and immunities. Our greatest progress in expanding opportunity has come when we have united as a nation to address problems with national solutions like social security, workplace protections and human rights policies. Those lessons must inform our future efforts to pursue the American Dream for all.

And yet, we increasingly live in a world that is skeptical of collective solutions and prioritizes the non-infringement of individual rights over our communal obligations.

To further the value of community, we must embrace mutual respect, diversity, and integration. As people who came here from other lands—some as immigrants, some in chains, and some as the first indigenous settlers of untamed wilderness—our national commitment to welcome new generations is a personal, as well as political, expression of community, and it sometimes means that those of us who have benefited most from being part of the American venture must give back the most, sharing our national prosperity with those who have benefited the least. And that there are certain things—from public transportation to national defense—that we simply cannot do on our own, whether as individuals or as individual cities, states, or corporations.

We must see our community as the web of connections, rights and responsibilities that we have as citizens of the world as well as members of its most powerful nation. Those ties obligate us to search for solutions that move us forward together rather than pitting us against each other. If, as the Universal Declaration states, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” it is incumbent upon us always to seek common ground.