[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/14/art.obama.lulac.jpg caption="Sen. Barack Obama addresses the national convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) at the Washington Hilton July 8."]
GOP Strategist and AC360° Contributor
Speaking last week in Powder Springs, Ga., Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said, “Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English, because they will learn English, you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.”
Now we know what he means when he talks about the need for “change.” What he means is that it's the country that needs to change, not Washington, D.C.
The remark was itself part of a larger outreach effort by Obama to appeal for the support of Hispanic voters in the upcoming election. As part of his effort to address the conflict over illegal immigration, the brunt of which has been felt by Hispanics, he phrased his statement in such a way as to suggest he was simply calling on parents to be certain their school-age children learned a second language. But, as someone who was born in the United States and who speaks both English and – to a lesser degree – Spanish, I am disturbed by the comments.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, the nation's second-largest school district, 92 languages officially are spoken at students' homes. Why go in front of LULAC and single out Spanish unless you are pandering to special interests? Or worse, as some in the blogosphere suggest, perhaps Obama is implying that Hispanics, both immigrant and nonimmigrant, cannot learn English so the rest of us should learn Spanish in order to communicate.
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