An open letter from Sen. Michael Bennet to the students of Colorado

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Dear Students,

When you wake up each morning, you should be focused on checking your homework, packing your backpack and walking into class ready to learn. You should feel hopeful for the future. 

Instead, far too many of you feel anxious, frustrated and even scared.

Over the last year, divisive and hurtful rhetoric in our politics has targeted immigrants, Muslims and other communities, unleashing a flood of concern in classrooms across the country. Some of you question whether you are accepted here. Others worry you will be forced to leave or separated from your families. With all the fear and uncertainty, some families are even delaying college plans. I read this in your letters, and I hear it when I talk with students across Colorado.

Last week, I visited Bruce Randolph, a middle and high school in Denver where some students recently tweeted at President Donald Trump to explain how immigrant families strengthen America. During my visit, students shared their stories, discussed immigration policy and asked how leaders in Washington could make the country safer and more welcoming.

Beyond policy, some students asked a harder and more troubling question. They asked me whether they are valued in our country. Here is my answer: absolutely. 

Make no mistake — people who suggest that immigrants or minorities somehow undermine our country do not understand our country.

From those who crossed from Asia to Alaska thousands of years ago, searching for new pastures, to settlers who braved the Atlantic to establish the 13 colonies to my own grandparents who fled the horrors of the Holocaust to rebuild their lives — the immigrant story is the American story. 

Anyone who tells you otherwise skipped history class. They missed the lesson on what truly makes America great. You make America great.

Remember that the next time you come across bullies or hurtful language about immigrants and minorities. In my career, I've learned that it's usually people with nothing good to offer who put others down. That's as true in the halls of Congress as it is in a middle-school cafeteria.

Sen. Michael Bennet  David Zalubowski/AP

I cannot promise the ugliness will stop. In fact, it likely won't. But I can promise you that leaders across our state will fight every day to challenge hate, to keep families together and to stand up for the best traditions and deepest values of our country.

If and when you need help, look around you. Reach out to your teachers, principals or elected officials. Even amidst the hate, you have a community of support. It is incumbent on all of us leaders to make sure you stay focused, graduate and make the most of your enormous potential.  

In the meantime, double-check your math and reread your essays. Work hard in class and in your communities. You have no idea what the future will bring, but if you're prepared for it, you will accomplish all that you want. Know that as you stand up to succeed in the face of this bigotry, I'll be standing with you.

All my best,

Michael