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Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What It Means to be American

Tuesday February 2004


Tamar Jacoby Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Does the melting pot still work? Should it? What does it mean to become an American in an era of globalization, the internet, identity politics, ethnic niche advertising and a TV remote with a hundred or more different channels?

The consensus of the twenty-one writers of this book (of which Tamar Jacoby is editor as well as one of the authors) is that immigrant absorption still works—and given the number of newcomers arriving today, the nation’s future depends on it. Assimilation does not have to be incompatible with ethnic identity—and we as a nation need to find new ways to talk about and encourage becoming American.

The stakes could hardly be higher. One in nine Americans is an immigrant. Nearly one-fifth of U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home. The number of foreign-born Americans—33 million and growing—now exceeds the entire population of Canada.

The authors agree: ethnicity does play a more important role now than ever before, but today’s newcomers can and will become Americans and enrich our national life—reinventing the melting pot and reminding us all just what it is we have in common.

Senior Fellow Tamar Jacoby is the author of Someone Else’s House: America’s Unfinished Struggle for Integration. She writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, Commentary, and other publications. You are cordially invited to hear her thoughtfully discuss this important, and controversial, subject.