To American Immigrants from the Middle East

Kahlil Gibran’s poem from 1926 has a timely application to the modern day.

| August 2018

  • The subject of immigration to the United States is complex and has been for years. Kahlil Gibran is a renowned Lebanese-American poet whose words on the subject in 1926 are still relevant today.
    Photo courtesy of Getty/bauhaus1000
  • “Kahlil Gibran’s Little Book of Life” compiled by Neil Douglas-Klotz shares a wide range of Gibran’s poetry with a motif of the various interpretations of life in middle-eastern languages.
    Cover courtesy of Red Wheel/Weiser LLC

Kahlil Gibran’s Little Book of Life (Red Wheel/Weiser LLC, 2018) compiled by Neil Douglas-Klotz follows the diverse interpretations of the word “life” in middle eastern languages and specifically Gibran’s works. Douglas-Klotz imitates the paradoxical contrast in Gibran’s poetic style by selecting and arranging the little book with balance and inclusion of lesser known sayings. The following excerpt is a poem written in 1926 and is a viewpoint of American immigration.

I believe in you, and I believe in your

destiny.

I believe that you are contributors to this new

civilization.

I believe that you have inherited from your

ancestors an ancient dream, a song, a proph­ecy, which you can proudly lay as a gift of

gratitude upon the lap of America.

I believe you can say to the founders of this

great nation, “Here I am, a youth, a young tree whose roots were plucked from the hills of

Lebanon, yet I am deeply rooted here, and I would be fruitful.”

And I believe that you can say to Abraham

Lincoln, the blessed, “Jesus of Nazareth touched your lips when you spoke, and guided

your hand when you wrote. And I shall uphold all that you have said and all that you

have written.”

I believe that you can say to Emerson and Whit-

man and James, “In my veins runs the blood of the poets and wise men of old, and it is

my desire to come to you and receive, but I shall not come with empty hands.”

I believe that even as your ancestors came to

this land to produce riches, you were born here to produce riches by intelligence, by

labor.

And I believe that it is in you to be good

citizens.

And what is it to be a good citizen?

It is to acknowledge the other person’s rights

before asserting your own, but always to be

conscious of your own.

It is to be free in thought and deed, but it is to

know that your freedom is subject to the

other person’s freedom.

It is to create the useful and the beautiful with

your own hands, and to admire what others

have created in love and with faith.

It is to produce wealth by labor and only by

labor, and to spend less than you have produced, so that your children may not be

dependent on the state for support when you are no more.

It is to stand before the towers of New York,

Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco say­ing in your heart, “I am the descendant of a

people that built Damascus and Byblos, and Tyre and Sidon and Antioch, and now I am

here to build with you, and with a will.”

It is to be proud of being an American, but

it is also to be proud that your fathers and mothers came from a land upon which God laid

his gracious hand and raised his messengers.

Young Americans of Syrian origin, I believe

in you.


Reprinted with permission from Red Wheel/Weiser LLC, Kahlil Gibran’s Little Book of Life by Neil Douglas-Klotz is available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher at 1-800-423-7087 or orders@rwwbooks.com.

EnaAe
9/2/2018 3:51:09 PM

Trying to remember the title of a book: I read this book when I was a pre-teen so it would have been late 70s early 80s. In the book, a young girl goes to a friend’s house and has awareness for the first time that her house is “poor” by comparison. She comes home and tries to fix up her house but the wallpaper is peeling and there is “tin foil” under the potted plants. I think her Mom may have been a single parent? Anyhow, I’ve always thought that book was Judy Blume’s "Are You There God", but it’s not and it’s not "Forever" by Blume either. So I’m really stumped.


Cynthia Papermaster
8/10/2018 9:49:03 AM

thank you for publishing this poem .I will share it with my CodePINK sisters




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