Like Henry A. Kissinger, former Speaker Newt Gingrich is brilliant out of office. But many observers agree that both left something to be desired. Kissinger said all the correct things about defeating the Communists at their own game of power politics. That caused no less than William F. Buckley to introduce Kissinger to President-elect Richard M. Nixon. Once in office, first as National Security Advisor and later as Secretary of State, Kissinger proved to be a disaster. Gingrich in office was only a disappointment, not a disaster. We now know that there were things in his personal life which at times clouded his vision. Remember, it was conservatives who did him in, not Democrats. After the 1998 election, with its razor-thin victory for Republicans in the House of Representatives, a dozen conservatives informed the Republican Leadership that they would not vote for Gingrich as Speaker under any circumstance. That was when Tom DeLay and others in the GOP Leadership told Gingrich that the ball game was over.
Republicans probably were rescued for the moment. But Gingrich’s issue-driven philosophy, which brought the Republicans to power for the first time in 40 years, was and remains the right way to go. I mention all of this because Gingrich, while not running for President, is pushing various issues and issue clusters, which are right on.
I don’t know how Gingrich would perform if he were elected to the highest office in the land but these days he is responsible in that each time I read one of his policy initiatives I want to stand up and cheer.
His latest initiative is to push for English as the official language of the United States. A well respected radio talk show host in Washington, Chris Core, suggested last week that the immigration issue well might be at least partially solved if English were the official language. He is absolutely correct. Much of his audience agreed with him and so do I. When my father came to the United States in 1923 he was here for only a few weeks when he began attending night school at the Stephen Bull Elementary Public Facility in Racine, Wisconsin. Although he still spoke with an accent, which bothered him to the day he died, he nevertheless developed a superb understanding and command of the English language. He could explain the most complex ideas in ways that easily could be understood. He developed a great sense of humor. He taught me how to tell jokes. He also taught me my politics and our faith, which was mostly by example.
My relatives and others who knew him told me that he was super anxious to find a school in which he could learn English. He wanted to start a few days after he came here was disappointed that he had to wait a matter of weeks to enroll.
While he never achieved great economic status, he did have a first-class engineer’s license. He bought and paid for a home in seven years. Moreover, he spoke out at Racine City Council hearings and saw his views adopted. When he came to America his family in Germany was in a state of poverty. Sound familiar? Post-World War I inflation had wiped out the savings of his father and mother as well as those of a wealthier aunt. He didn’t think he was entitled to documents in German. By the time he became a citizen six years after immigrating he didn’t expect to vote with a German ballot either. We lived in a neighborhood filled with ethnic folks: Slovaks, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Italians and so on. There was only one other German family in the neighborhood. He did not seek to live in an enclave of people who came from the same country as he did. In fact, my father was known as being so anxious to be seen as an American, family lore has it that when he brought his two sisters to America in 1935 as my aunt began to speak of the ordeal of their trip he exclaimed, “Speak English.”
That is the precise point Gingrich is making very eloquently. People who wish to assimilate will want to learn English. They will be required to do so if all governmental documents are in English. American citizens are apprehensive of those who come to this country and want to continue to speak and read their language. Many openly talk of “taking back” parts of the United States to form their own country. This is dangerous, as everyone understands. If the various Hispanic organizations would endorse the concept of official English things would turn around in a short while. My concern is not to deny workers money to send home. My concern is with those who defiantly refuse to adopt the language of this nation. And certain liberal leaders are encouraging them in that stance because they don’t want them to move ahead. If they live in an enclave and all speak Spanish liberals will be able to control them politically. It is the worst kind of racism imaginable.
When I was advising parliamentary leaders in the Baltic states they presented me with this problem. There were so many Russians living in these small countries that they could overcome the Baltic leadership if they put their minds to it. Despite Soviet control, life was vastly better in the Baltic states than in the Soviet Union itself. These Russians didn’t want to go back. I suggested to them that they adopt as part of their constitution that Estonian or Latvian or Lithuanian, as applicable, be the official language. Those who wanted to learn it could stay and become genuine citizens of those small nations. Those who refused to learn the language of the nation state would be obliged to leave. So far as I understand it, some of the Baltic states have taken initiatives along those lines. When I last discussed this with a prominent official in Estonia he told me that the suggestion was working and that the situation where there were as many or more Russians as Estonians has been partially rectified.
The United States welcomed with open arms all of the different ethnic groups which began coming here in the 19th Century or even before. Of course, some of them encountered roadblocks and prejudice. We have yet to be able to repeal human nature. As late as the years following the Viet Nam defeat thousands of Vietnamese came here. We did not object. Why? Because they showed clear signs of wanting to assimilate. What is different now? Do we hate Spanish-speaking people? I suppose a few do. But the vast majority of Americans want to welcome them if they choose to assimilate.
They will learn English at adult schools. They will send their children to schools where there is no bilingual nonsense. They will be taught in English after a reasonable time to learn it.
Gingrich says it correctly when he opines, “If you are pro-immigration to America, you should be pro-assimilation into English as the common language because in fact your children and grandchildren will have a dramatically better future if they are part of the common commercial civilization.” Gingrich recommends shifting funding for bilingual education to English immersion programs. Bilingual education has trapped people in what he termed “linguistic ghettos.”
Here is a proposition which has the support of more than 80% of Americans. It will not see the light of day. Why? Because the leftist special-interest groups are against official English. The Democratic Party is beholden to these groups. Especially with both Houses of Congress in liberal hands, this very important program never will be enacted. Gingrich has said that this early autumn he will decide whether to run for the Presidency. If he doesn’t run one can only hope he will obtain a commitment of support from another candidate who will raise the issue.