‘How shall you forget…?’

In the 1920s, at a time when immigration levels to the United States were high, the U.S. government, intent on assimilating the various immigrant groups, published  a booklet called Gateway to Citizenship. Immigrants could submit poems about their country’s contributions to America, and among them was the following poem from an English immigrant.

I am the England
In this man, this woman —
A bright star in the morning sun
To the millions of mine who crossed an ocean
And a half continent westward.
And I am content —
Yet, lest a star grow too dim,
Being far away and the sun near,
These things I remind you —
I gave the nucleus of a race,
A language, and 800 years tradition
Into the keeping of an American wilderness —
And you speak my tongue still,
And you keep my traditions
And the strong stock of me:
Pilgrims, planters, freebooters
Is in the heart of you.
And the stout men that sired you
Were Englishmen:
Adams, Hancock, Hale, Williams.
How shall you forget them?
Your rivers, mountains, States,
And your proudest cities wear English names,
And the rock at the core
Of your beloved democracy
Is the unbending will of English yeomen to be free.
How shall you forget these things?

Almost a hundred years after the anonymous poet wrote those words, we have not forgotten these things. At least, those of us with some historical grounding and those who are the descendants of the English colonists and later immigrants are still mindful of our old inheritance. But it seems the rest of the country, those who are taught faulty or false history, or those who for whatever reason are unfavorable to the English roots of America, have forgotten, or choose to deny the history.

It seems ironic in the extreme that Americans with English or British roots have to assert our right to claim our heritage, in contrast with most other ethnic groups who are encouraged to flaunt theirs.

At the very least, within our family circles we can work to preserve that legacy and to foster a healthy kind of pride in our ancestry and in the heritage which is ours, passing that on to our children.


One thought on “‘How shall you forget…?’

  1. Very touching. Folks sadly undervalue the importance to retaining and recognizing namesakes. I find this an equally important factor to demographics when choosing places either to visit or relocate.


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