Reflecting on what it means to be an American as the 4th of July draws near, how has brand America changed under President Trump? While millions of voters believe in our president’s ability to make America great again, millions of others believe that immigrants make America great. So how much does a leader define brand values, and how much do the people behind the brand define what a brand is, or in this case, what America stands for?
What is America’s brand if we don’t stand up for immigrants and the role they played in establishing our country?
A week before the 4th of July, the Supreme Court upheld parts of Trump’s travel ban, in what is viewed by many as a failure of our justice system. Not only does the revised travel ban suspend refugee entrance into our country indefinitely, it limits immigration from 6 “enemy” countries— immigration from countries where translators, soldiers, and everyday citizens risked their lives to protect our soldiers during the Iraq War.
Earlier this week, the multi-award winning, Lin Manuel Miranda, known for writing, starring, and directing Hamilton, released the music video, “The Hamilton Mixtape: Immigrants (We Get the Job Done).” In it, we are barraged by images of immigrants working in squalor, hiding from bombs, being ripped apart from their families, and living in fear. And yet, the strength and resilience of immigrants, and their contributions to this country shine through the dark ominous music video. One line echoed throughout the piece about the roles that immigrants play in our society:
“It’s America's ghost writers, the credit's only borrowed”
What it means to be an American and what it means to care about your fellow citizens are interconnected. How can we show our concern? How can we show up for the people who need it the most? How can we rebrand ourselves and get back to the values of our founding fathers and value the role of immigrants?
And most importantly, how can we make sure that the immigrant story is not lost?
The backbone of America was founded by the work of immigrants. Today it is impossible to imagine Silicon Valley or the tech industry without the work of immigrants. And, it’s important to note than nearly 100 tech companies rallied against the travel ban against immigrants.
After all, whose stories get lost when we talk about the Americans that make America great?
It’s not only the leaders and CEOs that we’ve heard of who have made a difference, like the son of Syrian parents, Apple’s Steve Jobs, Tesla’s Elon Musk from South Africa, or Google’s Sergey Brin from the former Soviet Union. But what about the immigrants who make all of that technology possible? The Filipino immigrants who made San Jose’s first micro-chips or the nearly one million Indian scientists and software engineers who are building our products, and the thousands of Chinese app developers and programmers?
Who are America’s real ghostwriters? Unseen, in the shadows, and never getting to tell their story.
It was no coincidence that “The Hamilton Mixtape: Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” was released the week before the 4th of July. It’s a rallying cry, for us to recognize just who is doing all of the work so that we can tell our stories. If we think of this in terms of branding, it’s time to pull up our sleeves and let the collective brand, America, speak up and share the stories that matter to us the most.
It is my hope that this 4th of July, we can recognize just how integral immigrants have been to all our lives and let their story be told where it belongs: front and center.