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We all come to look for America

Posted by Dave Griffith on February 21, 2017 at 7:40 PM

The iconic final to verses of Simon and Garfunkel’s “America”

So I looked at the scenery,

She read her magazine;

And the moon rose over an open field.

"Kathy, I'm lost", I said,

Though I knew she was sleeping.

"I'm empty and aching and

I don't know why."


Counting the cars

On the New Jersey Turnpike

They've all come

To look for America,

All come to look for America,

All come to look for America


Recent events give this song a different meaning than when I heard it the first time. The lines “I’m empty and aching” describe many of us these days. As a nation of immigrants, as a nation of citizens, don’t we all come to look for America? Isn’t the America dream that opportunity is available to all?


Who’s America one might ask? It is not like the American experience is the same for everyone. In fact, based on race, gender, parents, geography, education, religion, mentors, access to opportunity, and a hundred other attributes our experience of America is very different.


I am OK with that reality as long as we acknowledge it and as long as we don’t assume our experience of America is the same for everyone else. In reality, equal access to opportunity, the basis of the American dream, is very much a myth. Public policy and political leadership framed on this stereotype, especially one so clearly a myth, is not good policy. It is this policy we look to change, both through advocacy and through the impact of our programs.


At Episcopal Community Services where I work, we deal with the issues of poverty in the Philadelphia region. We clearly know the American experience is not the same for all Americans, let alone immigrants. Our America is one where access to opportunity, to prosperity, is available to all. That is not a reality now, but it is a vision we aspire to for the individuals we serve and we hope all individuals. With access, and all of the related skills to realize opportunity, we hope the individuals we serve can break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Through economic mobility we hope individuals can achieve their version of the American dream. For more on our work see www.ecsphilly.org


Too many people are empty and aching. Too many of our citizens are looking for America.


We all come to look for America. Let us focus on the “we”.


Categories: ECS Outreach, Griffith Thoughts, Muddy Boots

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