In her book, “SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome,” about the 200-year period in history during which ancient Rome rose from a tiny city state to an enormous and powerful empire, the British historian Mary Beard asks the question: How did this small, Latin settlement grow so fast and so large?
Her answer is that the Romans sought to absorb and even welcome newcomers, that is, immigrants. Founded by immigrants, refugees from the Trojan War, Rome encouraged, even pressured its neighbors to join it, threatening them with war or extinction if they refused. Eventually, the attraction of being a Roman citizen became so great that at least one war was fought against Rome by a group of towns who were demanding to be recognized as citizens with equal rights. Rome won the war but eventually accepted the new citizens.
This country too was founded by immigrants, political and religious refugees, and it too grew rapidly and became great due to the energy and enterprising spirit and skills of the newcomers. Many of these immigrants burned with enthusiasm for a country that offered them refuge from tyranny and poverty.
Immigrants, especially, do not take this country’s liberties prescribed in its constitution for granted, having been deprived of many basic human rights where they came from. A similar lesson to be learned is that of China in the 15th century. Believing that it needed nothing from anyone outside its borders, its emperor scrapped his large Navy, ceased exploration and closed its doors. And then China began to decline.
Toby Carlson, State College