With President Trump meeting with Democratic leaders in Congress to seek bipartisan agreement to enact the Dream Act, it is a good moment to consider the timeless song of American patriotism, "God Bless America," written by an immigrant as a hymn to the nation he loved.
Irving Berlin was the son of a Jewish cantor of a synagogue in Russia and an immigrant who came to America at the age of five to become one of the greatest songwriters in the history of the land he loved.
Having escaped persecution in Europe and having been welcomed into the U.S., Irving Berlin spent a lifetime feeling a devout sense of patriotism that is not uncommon from those who come here from other nations in search of a better life. Those feelings are also common from Americans who have always been here and are grateful for the blessings our country has bestowed on us.
I would encourage readers to spend some time doing an extensive search about Irving Berlin and "God Bless America," which was one of the greatest love songs to a nation ever written and a tribute to tolerance and diversity that are the core of the American idea.
Irving Berlin was a man of faith who wrote songs such as, "White Christmas," that have meaning to people of all faiths. He was a man of patriotism who first wrote "God Bless America" during World War I but withheld the song until 1938, when the world was on the brink of the World War II.
Here are the lyrics of "God Bless America":
“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:
God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above;
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America, my home, sweet home.
God bless America, my home, sweet home.”
Irving Berlin knew that being an American is a statement of principle. It is not about a hat, a slogan, a foreign policy called "America First," clothes made in China with the first family name on the label or a wall on our border.
America is about an idea that we are a country of vastly diverse people, who came to this land from vastly diverse places, who come together for a shared purpose: that our vastly diverse people must be united and never divided against each other for nefarious purposes by unscrupulous politicians.
It is no coincidence that in 1940, the Ku Klux Klan boycotted "God Bless America." There is no doubt that Irving Berlin, who came to America from Russia when a Czar was in power, would vehemently object to any Russian dictator attacking our democracy and would vehemently oppose any form of hatred, bigotry or discrimination based on race, religion or gender.
Is President Trump beginning to move away from the bitterly divisive partisanship that dominated his campaign and defined his first seven months in office? After all, he dined with Democratic leaders without even inviting Republican leaders, trying to seek passage of the long-overdue Dream Act.
Time will tell if the Dream Act is signed into law by a president who campaigned against it but now meets with Democrats to achieve its enactment.
Irving Berlin said that "God Bless America" does not belong to any political party, and of course he was right. There is little doubt that if he were with us today, Berlin would be championing the Dreamers and the Dream Act.
He knew from his own life that the immigrants who came to our country and helped build it, share a love for it that is second to none.
Like many fellow liberals and conservatives, I am inspired by "God Bless America" to a deep and abiding patriotism. Like Irving Berlin in his time, we should all be inspired by the American ideas of tolerance and unity of diverse citizens with shared values, who come together with common cause.
If President Trump remains true to his word, which is far from certain based on his track record, the final compromise will combine enactment of a Dream Act with increased resources for border enforcement that both parties can agree on.
"God Bless America," written by an immigrant, is a hymn to America for the Dreamers too. When the great nightmare of the Dreamers being deported is rejected and the great dream of the Dreamers of joining us for generations comes true, the world will be reminded again of the greatness of America.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics.