The Epic of Oxford

In 1931, in his The Epic of America, James Adams defined the American dream. He envisioned a land where life would be better, richer, and more fulfilling for all of its new inhabitants, with equal opportunity for each so long as they proved hard-working and ambitious, natural characteristics of any true American. Regardless of social class, economic status, religion, race, or ethnicity, those fortunate enough to be called Americans should enjoy endless and unrestricted success, ample chances for personal growth which would in turn contribute to the betterment of the motherland, America herself. In America, you could you start with rags and end with riches. Everyone wants to be an American.

Nearly 40% of all current American citizens can trace their roots back to one of the 12 million immigrants who passed through Ellis Island in Upper New York Bay from 1892-1954. Today, there are approximately 81 million immigrants in the United States, including their American-born children, comprising nearly 26% of the total population. Immigrants are undoubtedly an essential component of the American economy; they have been documented as more likely to seek higher education, start their own businesses, design new technology, and lead in scientific innovation. If Adam’s American dream still holds true today, immigrants are arguably its most devout dreamers.

Despite these humbling statistics, anti-immigrant rhetoric perforates the political agenda. Immigrants are made to feel unwelcome by politicians, told to “go back home” by everyday Americans, and have increasingly reported feelings of unease and discomfort in light of the recent presidential campaigns. A nation which once invited bright, talented new additions has regressed, replacing ambition, welcoming, and hope with bigotry, prejudice, and xenophobia.

A microcosm of the United States, Emory College is comprised of 18% international students and Oxford College, 20%. Over 100 countries are represented at Emory University. Students from all over the world are drawn to Emory, much as people from all over were and are drawn to the United States. How do international students at Oxford College of Emory University feel about anti-immigration policy? In their opinion, does it reflect Adam’s vision of the American dream?

Oxford students had this to say: “As a country that prides itself on its appeal to immigrants, I feel like not wanting immigrants in their country is sort of self-contradictory. I understand some of the concerns they [those against immigration] may have, but I also think they are searching for people to blame for domestic problems. Most of the problems they have, from what I’ve seen, isn’t even from immigrants. I think the United States needs to look inwards before blaming outwards. I think a lot of people believe in the American dream, even people where I’m from. I don’t think the American dream is gone, I think there’s some kinks in it. I’m confident that this generation is going to help fix the kinks”. -anonymous, sophomore

“It just kind of hurts. Back home, we have such a glorified view of America. Now that I’m here...I don’t know, I guess you could say I was a bit disappointed. I guess you can still work hard and get what you want, but nobody is rooting for you except yourself. I feel like the concept of the American dream suggests that everyone wants you to succeed, they all want us to migrate here and do the best we can and make something of ourselves, right? Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting against all odds just to get by. Anti-immigration policy is the exact opposite of the American dream. It’s not a dead dream, but anti-immigrant policy is pretty much killing it.” -anonymous, freshman

“I learned pretty quickly that not everyone is as nice as they are here at Oxford. I heard about those local Covington mobs protesting building the mosque. Coming from a predominantly Muslim country, that scares me. What if they get the wrong idea? They don’t know me, but they think they do because they have a false idea about me based on fear and propaganda. I don’t know about the American dream, all I know is that racism is still alive, and it’s f------ scary” -anonymous, sophomore