On July 9, 2008 Barack Obama said that Americans should not worry about whether immigrants to the United States learn English,that was more important that American children learn to speak Spanish. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I began thinking about all the reasons why that was untrue.
There are several reasons why this was an outrageous comment. English is the unifying language of the United States as well as the language in which our business is conducted. An immigrant condemns himself to poor jobs, with little prospect of improving his financial future if he or she refuses to learn English. Secondly, unless America is eventually to splinter like the Balkans, we need a unifying language. The melting pot must continue to melt, in other words. Having individual immigrant groups remain insular is the path to separation. Thirdly, there is no reason for American born children to have to learn Spanish. If the American child emigrates to Mexico or Spain, I would expect them to learn Spanish.
Rasmussen Reports have several surveys which indicate that most Americans hold the views I mentioned above.
Eighty-three percent (83%) place a higher priority on encouraging immigrants to speak English as their primary language. Just 13% take the opposite view and say it is more important for Americans to learn other languages.
Last fall, a Rasmussen Reports survey found that 77% of Americans believed that employers should be allowed to require employees to speak English while on the job. With the Supreme Court recently upholding tougher standards for voter identification at the polls, 65% of voters now believe election ballots should only be printed in English.
Broken down along party lines, 79% of Republicans and 59% of Democrats reject the idea that all Americans should know multiple languages. Among unaffiliated voters, 68% say their fellow citizens do not need to know a language other than English.
Obama has not taken any heat for making this comment that is demonstrably out of the mainstream. Hopefully this issue will reappear later in the campaign.