The Simpsons: Keeping the Border to Springfield Open

There's no television show more quintessentially American than The Simpsons.  During it's twenty year long run, the show has become a mainstay of American life.  A prism on our society, The Simpsons has tackled one topical issue after another and despite its superficial appearance as having lax values, many would argue otherwise.  The show has even spawned several books about its religious themes.  Most recently, in their season finale, the show took a look at the immigration debate.  (You can watch it on Hulu.)

As an influx of immigrants (of Norwegian descent) make their way into Springfield, the locals respond favorably at first.  These Ogdenvillians have a strong work ethic, are good at what they do, and are embraced by Homer and his fellow townspeople.

Eventually, Springfielders simply grow weary (and wary) of the "others."

It's when working with the new immigrants—comically building a wall to keep these very people out—that the residents of Springfield realize just how similar they are to the new residents.  Both Ned Flanders and one the Ogdenvillians craves but has trouble finding four button cardigans. Bart and an immigrant child share a passion for graffiti.

The new immigrants have become part of the Springfield community. Newcomers are just as invested in Springfield and have become part of the town.  As The Simpsons shows us, immigrants' success is Springfield's success.

Clearly, this message has particular resonance in today's financial climate.  We need everyone's help and know-how to repair our economy, improve education, and generate jobs.  Immigrants have a stake in those systems and are part of the collective solution.

To read more, visit The Opportunity Agenda.

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A Community-Minded Generation

Much has been made of the vitality that President Obama brings to the White House.  To be sure, this is in part the story of his relative youth—only Clinton, Grant, Kennedy, and Theodore Roosevelt were younger when assuming the office—but it’s also a function of his ability to convince the millennial generation (or vocalize the millennial generation’s belief) that their voices matter.  Given the size and scope of the challenges facing our nation, we need young people to see the stake that they have in their communities.    

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Investing in Our Communities by Investing in Community Members

Our communities are more than just the physical spaces, or indeed even the relationships, that constitute them.  Rather, our communities are a reflection of the countless individual times when each and every one of us has looked beyond our parochial interests to invest time, energy, and resources into something bigger than ourselves.  Bringing food and comfort to an ailing neighbor, organizing a block party, or even stopping to pick up a single piece of litter; these are the actions that build a community. 

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Opportunity on Ice

There's been a lot of conversation lately over what Wall Street needs to finally fix the economy.  Some say a good paddling, those most outraged with federal money paying AIG bonuses, while others feel that reinvestment in assets is the only way to jump start its engine and finally pull the world out of the mud.  What Wall Street needs isn't so much a massive flow of cash, but a deepening understanding in their interconnectedness with communities all around the country.  This became quite clear to me the other night during the second period of the New York Rangers game.

This past weekend, my wife and I stopped into a favorite Irish pub of ours, known for having the best burgers around The Garden.  The place is nothing fancy, more Irish by its staff and patronage than on its walls.  We love the place not just for the burgers, but, by Irish pub standards, its quite clean, lots of big screens and always easy to find a big booth once the Rangers take the ice.

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An Uneven Journey

Earlier this year, I visited my father, who lives in the Bay Area. As we drove from the Oakland airport, the conversation quickly turned to the Obama presidency. Born in 1923, my dad survived the Great Depression, fought in World War II, endured vicious Jim Crow segregation and violence, participated in the Civil Rights Movement, and, this year, witnessed the inauguration of an African-American president of the United States.

On our drive, he reminisced about how, at age 8, he had gone with his 2nd grade class to see the cavalcade of then-president Herbert Hoover as it drove through downtown Detroit. A year later, the country would throw Hoover out of office for his gross mishandling of the economy, choosing Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his message of change. Before my dad's teen years were through, he would join the Marines and defend a segregated nation from within a segregated military. Traveling to and from southern military bases, he would experience racial humiliation, threats, and violence from white fellow Americans, often while wearing his Marine uniform.

As we marveled at the progress we've made as a country, we drove by block after block of boarded up houses in some of Oakland's African-American neighborhoods, many with foreclosure signs visible. Many homes in the same neighborhoods still sported lawn signs reading "Change" and "Hope."

As the Obama presidency sinks in, many are interpreting it in absolute terms: arguing either that it shows that racial bias and discrimination are no longer factors in American life, or that the election means little for race relations, reflecting merely a unique confluence of events--a historically unpopular incumbent, a historically bad economy, a gifted politician raised by white folks who ran a flawless 21st century campaign against a pair of tone-deaf 20th century opponents. News media coverage mostly echoed that polarized, simplistic discourse, with an emphasis on the "post-racial America" narrative.

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