English as a First Language

The Senate took up the Imhofe amendment today, which would make English the nation’s official language. It passed easily, 63-34. Then, just to make things confusing, the Senate also enacted an alternative by Democrat Ken Salazar which said that “English is the common and unifying language of the United States that helps provide unity for the people of the United States.” Hard to know what to make of it all, as Reuters’ account is a bit confused.

But the issue is not a trivial one, nor is this just a temporary bowing to “nativist” sentiment, as it will no doubt be portrayed in the MSM. It is absolutely vital that America remain an English-speaking country. Of course there are people here who speak other languages, as there always have been. But today, just as 125 years ago when my ancestors arrived from Norway, speaking only Norwegian, the most basic requirement for participation in American society is facility in the English language.

Harry Reid lowered the tone of the debate when he said:

Although the intent may not be there, I really believe this amendment is racist. I believe it is directed at people who speak Spanish.

Like so many things that Reid does, that comment was contemptible. No one will benefit more from an insistence on English as the country’s language than those who come here speaking other languages, and–above all–their sons and daughters. But Reid, as always, focuses on politics, not principle. Right next door, in Canada, we have the starkest possible evidence of the catastrophic consequences of bilingualism.

My Congressman, Col. John Kline, is a long-time advocate of legislation establishing English as the country’s official language. The principle is sound, but the question is, will the legislation make any difference? To the extent that we still hear, “Press 1 for English,” the answer may be No.

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