Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander for October 28, 2007

“Pledging Allegiance to OUR Flag”

Posted on October 28, 2007

Wednesday the House of Representatives passed H.R. 505, the Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act, a bill that would create a new, race-based government within the borders of the United States. This legislation may seem insignificant, but embedded in this bill is an assault on the original national motto of this country which is inscribed on the wall above the desk of the President of the Senate and on every quarter, dime, nickel and penny: E Pluribus Unum, one from many. H.R. 505 would, for the first time in American history, create a new, separate sovereign government within our country based on race, putting us on the path to becoming the United Nations instead of the United States. This bill will set a precedent for the breakup of our country along racial lines, and it ought to be soundly defeated. I’m sorry to report that this legislation is also advancing in the Senate, where it is known as S. 310. It was passed by the Indian Affairs Committee in May. While it was considered and rejected by the Senate last year, it was a close call and the outcome this time around is far from certain. 56 Senators – just four short of the requisite 60 – voted in favor of considering this bill in June of 2006. This bill would undermine our history of being a nation based not on race, but upon common values of liberty, equal opportunity, and democracy. The question the bill poses is thus one that is fundamental to the very existence of our nation. It creates a new government based upon race. Our constitution guarantees just the opposite: equal opportunity without regard to race. America is different because, under our constitution, becoming an American can have nothing to do with ancestry. That is because America is an idea, not a race. Ours is a nation based upon our shared values, enshrined in our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, upon our history as a nation, and upon our shared language, English. An American can technically become a citizen of Japan, but would never be considered “Japanese.” But if a Japanese person wants to become a citizen of the United States, he or she must become an American. Some say that diversity is our greatest strength. And it is a great strength, but hardly our greatest. Jerusalem is diverse. The Balkans are diverse. Iraq is diverse. Our greatest strength is that we have taken all that magnificent diversity and forged it into one nation. Hawaiians are Americans. They became United States citizens in 1900. They have saluted the American flag, paid American taxes, fought in American wars. In 1959, ninety-four percent of Hawaiians reaffirmed that commitment to become Americans by voting to become a state. Becoming an American has always meant giving up allegiance to your previous country and pledging allegiance to your new country, the United States of America. This goes back to Valley Forge when George Washington himself signed and then administered this oath to his officers: “I . . . renounce, refuse, and abjure any allegiance or obedience to [King George III]; and I do swear that I will to the utmost of my power, support, maintain and defend the said United States. . . .” Instead of supporting a bill to create this new Native Hawaiian government, we should consider legislation that unites us all as Americans. Our nation must remain “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” – not many nations, divided by race, with special privileges for some.