Last year, I met the new Tech section editor for the Huffington Post, Jose Antonio Vargas. He came from the Washington Post (where he had been part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team who covered the Virginia Tech shootings), and he wanted to talk about bringing more storytelling and diversity to tech coverage. I loved that, of course.
I also learned that Jose came from the Philippines, which is where my father comes from. Even though Jose came here at 12, and I was a first-generation American born here to parents who seemed pretty dedicated to assimilation, we bonded a bit about random cultural similarities. The next time fellow BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone hit New York, I told her she had to meet Jose, which she did.
Flash forward a few months, and Jose reached out to us, letting us know he was about to launch something. Something that would hopefully be big, important and worth covering.
That something was DefineAmerican.com, launched with a bang, thanks to Jose's op-ed in the New York Times in which he "came out of the immigration closet," as Lisa put it, about his life as an undocumented immigrant.
We invited Jose to BlogHer '11 to be part of a diverse panel discussing the issue of, particularly, the children of immigration. And I, personally, have been following Define American ever since.
The goal of Define American is to change the conversation about immigration, and in serving that goal they've asked folks to share their stories and share how they define "American".
Meeting Jose and then seeing his story unfold made me realize that I do strongly identify as a first-generation American; that I strongly value this country as a beacon and destination for individuals and families all over the world. And that while I assume that every single one of the dozens of family members I have who have come to this country did so legally, how would I actually know if that were not the case? No one ever ran their paperwork by me. Jose has changed the conversation for me. And how I think.
So here's how I define American. How do you? Jose wants you to tell your story about immigration on video, with photos or in writing. Go to DefineAmerican.com to join the conversation and see who else is talking (hey, Stephen Colbert!).
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