“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America better learn baseball.
The late cultural historian Jacques Barzun penned these words in a tribute to the
great American pastime. He marveled over the way baseball became a sport deeply
engrained in our national landscape, both in the love of the game and in how it
symbolizes values unique to our nation.
One of our nation’s strengths is our ability to bring together people across many
background, cultures, customs and beliefs. Our common principles of freedom,
individual rights, opportunity and the rule of law attract people to our nation.
They make our nation strong. But our cultural touch points serve as the threads
that connect us as a people.
The English language is one of them. The ability to communicate in one standard
language is a thread that unifies our workforce, our schools, our official functions
and our government ceremonies.
Nations all over the world build meaning and purpose from a unifying element.
Here in America, our language builds unity among citizens. It creates a sense of
national pride. It contributes to our common purpose.
Many people are surprised when they learn that even though many states,
including Virginia, have adopted English as their official language, the English
language has not been adopted as the official language of the United States
as a whole. In fact, the U.S. is one of a relatively few countries around the world
that does not have an official language.
Not too long ago, I cosponsored the English Language Unity Act. The legislation
declares English as the official language of the United States and establishes
three simple requirements.
First, it would require all official functions of the United States to be conducted
in English. Second, it would establish a uniform language requirement for
naturalization. And finally, it would place an obligation on representatives of the
federal government to encourage individuals to learn English.
This bill is not to say that immigrants to our country should abandon their native
roots. It is important for immigrant families to teach their children where they
came from and encourage knowledge of their native language. It’s also equally
important for young Americans to study and learn to value the language and
culture of other nations, so that they can become well-read, informed citizens,
as well as gain an appreciation for other countries and cultures.
Rather, the purpose of this bill is simply to encourage all residents to become
proficient in English.
Making English the official language of the United States is a commonsense step.
The heart and mind of America is expressed in our common, unifying language.
To recognize this cultural thread is to remain e pluribus unum—out of many, one.