I thought that in honor of National Adoption Month, and on account of the one-year-before-the-next-presidential-election mark, I'd post this little editorial I wrote (with the intention of sending a version of it to the paper, and I still might). Okay, let me just jump on my soapbox here...
"You Can Never Be President"
When my four-year-old gives me the daily update on what he wants to be when he grows up, it usually alternates between police office, tornado fighter, and spaceman. My response: You'd make an awesome (fill-in-the-profession)!
I'm dreading the day he says president. He was adopted from Guatemala at nine months, which means, as we all know from the Obama birth certificate hullabaloo, he can never be president. I hate the thought of telling my child that although his American-born classmates can be president one day, he can't.
My latest book, The Queen of Water, tells of my co-author's, Maria Virginia Farinango's, childhood growing up indigenous in the Ecuadorian Andes. She was told that Indians were meant to be servants, not students. She was told to aim for nothing higher than menial labor, that a professional career was out of the question. She struggled against these societal messages for years, and finally, as a teenager, began to prove them wrong. She taught herself to read. She worked to pay her way through school. She began her own business. And the ultimate triumph-- she co-authored a book about her life.
When American teens and adults read her story of injustice, they are outraged. How can you tell a child (especially a smart, plucky little girl like Maria Virginia) that she can't shoot for her dreams? How can you tell her that certain professions are off limits to her simply because of her heritage?
But we do it here in the United States. I'm going to have to deliver the same message to my son someday when president replaces spaceman or tornado fighter.
I'd been hoping that during the ridiculous debate about Obama's birthplace, someone would say, wait a minute, why does it matter where the guy happened to emerge from a womb? And wait another minute, given the social changes in America over the past few centuries, why does this antiquated requirement still exist anyway!?
Thousands of infants and children are adopted internationally each year. On arrival, they are American citizens. In most cases they have American parents and they've lived in America most of their conscious lives. (And although I'm focusing on adopted children here, the same argument could apply to immigrant children.) Why should we have to tell these children they can never be president?
The majority of Americans have a personal connection to an adopted child. We understand that families and friends consider our internationally adopted kids equal to their American-born peers. Let's make sure that we never have to tell these children that they can't shoot for their dreams— whether they aim for police officer, spaceman… or president.
To learn more about this issue, visit http://www.equalityforadoptedchildren.org .
Thanks for reading!