Giving the Gift of English

Posted: Dec 06, 2007 12:01 AM
Giving the Gift of English

One of the most unreported stories of the past month is Democrats in Congress refusing to protect the Salvation Army and other similar organizations from lawsuits for requiring their employees to be able to speak English on the job. This policy issue is also important politically, and Republicans will benefit politically by doing the right thing.

John Fund’s recent Wall Street Journal article reveals this absurd situation. Lawsuits have been brought by individuals and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against employers like the Salvation Army for requiring their employees to learn English within one year. The Salvation Army is only requiring English in performing work duties, not what language workers use in the break room, and gives them a full 12 months to learn the language. Yet the EEOC and certain groups are suing.

So Senator Alexander put an amendment into an appropriations bill to shield employers from these ridiculous lawsuits. The amendment passed both the House and the Senate. But the Democrats of the House Hispanic Caucus, led by Rep. Joe Baca, told Speaker Pelosi that she needed to stop this, and she readily complied by promising to strike the language in conference, holding up the bill.

The problem is that this bill includes all the money for the Justice Department and the FBI. Critical national security, terrorist prevention, and law enforcement dollars are in that bill, and Mrs. Pelosi is caving to pressure from radical liberal groups, and in the process, selling out what’s best for immigrants.

I say radical liberal groups because the vast majority of Americans disagree with them. Over 80% of Americans think English should be the official language of government, almost 90% think it’s very important for immigrants to be able to speak English, and over 75% believe that employers have the right to require employees to speak English while on the job.

The only ones who don’t think English should be the official language are liberal activists trying to recast America in their image. Those activists also form a large part of the Democratic base, and would be unforgiving of a Democratic presidential candidate who refuses to promise amnesty, driver licenses, and free health care to illegal immigrants.

Americans should disagree with this radical agenda. The simple fact is English is the commercial language of America. We speak it in business, in school, and in the press. In a workplace, it’s important for safety, morale, and customer relations for everyone to be able to speak a common language.

Being fluent in English is essential if you want to succeed in America. If you’re bilingual, that’s even better, but a top priority for success is being able to speak English in the workplace and in the public square. Someone who can speak English can compete for better jobs, with better pay. Someone who can speak English improves their chances to have a better future for themselves and their children.

This is not just a Hispanic issue, or even an immigrant issue. I grew up in the inner city of Cincinnati, became mayor of that fine city, and served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. One of the greatest keys I have found to success for a young ethnic and racial minority in America today is the ability to speak, read, and write English clearly and persuasively. Anyone with good English skills can get better jobs and opportunities, and enjoy a much better life.

If you care about a child in America today, then you want that child to be able to speak English. Regardless of color or culture, a child who knows how to communicate in English improves his or her chances for success exponentially. And part of getting children to be able to speak English is helping their parents to achieve a basic proficiency in the language by establishing some common sense requirements.

This is an issue the press needs to cover. There should be more articles and interviews on this issue. Yet John Fund’s article is one of the only articles out there.

CNN should be asking this kind of question to candidates during debates, instead of ambushing Republicans with Clinton campaign plants to emphasize the issues that liberal CNN producers consider more important.

But the reason CNN doesn’t talk about this is the reason conservatives should talk about it. Good policy is good politics. This is a perfect example of an issue where Republicans doing the right thing will help them in the polls. Republicans can unite the country by emphasizing English education, and holding the line on this legislation.

I’d like to see Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have to take a stand on this amendment.

An old adage says, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Give a person special coddling treatment in his native language, and he’ll get through the day. Teach an immigrant, or anyone in this country, how to master the English language, and he can soar on eagle wings to capture the fullest measure of the American dream.

That is one thing all of us should support.