The following is a a guest post by BrainProf
All the recent hateful rhetoric that is being thrown around during this election cycle is making me very anxious. All of a sudden everyone thinks that being openly racist is okay, a good thing, and that somehow this is going to make America great. This is not going to make America great. Let me tell you about a couple of people I know that WILL make America great, and represent why America IS great.
Over the last couple of years I've had the good fortune to work with two very talented undergraduate students in my lab. The first one, who is graduating this May with honors, has been working on a very technically challenging project trying to understand how the brain interprets and processes information. She has received numerous awards to perform her research over the summer and attend national meetings to present her work, and is basically working at the level of an advanced graduate student, and will be an author in a couple of peer-reviewed publications. She has done a ton of volunteer work in the local community and is a student leader in our local Latino student organization. After graduation she plans to finish her research project and apply to MD/PhD programs in order to go into a career where she can combine her passion for science with her interest in medicine. And here’s the catch. This student didn’t go to a fancy high school, or come from an academic family. In fact she’s the first in her family to attend college. And notably her parents are undocumented immigrants that brought her over from Mexico when she was one year old. Her parents, working landscaping and house cleaning jobs prioritized her education. She was finally able to come out of the shadows thanks to President Obama’s DREAM act, that allows individuals who’s parents brought them to the US as children to obtain temporary legal residence. This student’s family doesn’t sound like the “murderers and rapists” that some presidential candidates are describing and say we should keep out. And what’s even more concerning, is that ALL of the Republican candidates have agreed that they would not support this immigration measure, and if so people like my student would basically be out of luck.
Let me tell you about the other student. He graduated with honors last spring. In my lab he helped develop a model for neurodevelopmental disorders that will help us better understand the genetics of disorders such as autism and childhood epilepsy. He also presented his work in several scientific meetings, is already an author in one publication and has another on the way. He is currently studying neurological disorders in a different lab now and has already been accepted to medical school. During graduation he was given a University award for his leadership in community service. In his spare time he performed many, many hours of community service, running a clinic to help underserved populations navigate the medical system, helping them access health care, understanding medical diagnoses and learning to engage with their doctors. One time we were discussing his community service activities and he mentioned that he was moved to do them in a big part by his religion. This student is a devout Muslim, praying several times a day and attending religious services regularly. His parents are immigrants and along with his local immigrant community, they have always emphasized helping others less fortunate and always giving back not just to one’s own community but to others outside of it that may be in need. This doesn’t sound like the terrorists everyone seems to be afraid of. This doesn’t sound like someone I’d like to keep out of the country.
And these are only two examples that I happened to come across. Like them there are many others. This hateful rhetoric is poisoning our country, and will destroy the fabric of what makes it a great place to live.