A Nation of Immigrants

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About John F. Kennedy’s A Nation of Immigrants
at a time when the issue of immigration and immigrants has taken center stage in this country, the message of President John F. Kennedy’s classic essay A Nation of Immigrants is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.  That is why the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and publisher Harper Perennial have reissued this landmark essay on the contribution of immigrants to American society.

With a new introduction by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants (Harper Perennial) offers inspiring suggestions for immigration policy and presents a chronology of the main events in the history of immigration in America.

Written by Kennedy in 1958 after ADL reached out to the then-junior senator from Massachusetts asking him to highlight the contribution of immigrants at a time when the country was locked in a debate about the direction its policy should take, it is the last manuscript President Kennedy ever wrote, and the book was first published posthumously.

Throughout his presidency, John F. Kennedy was passionate about the issue of immigration reform. He believed that America is a nation of people who value both tradition and the exploration of new frontiers, people who deserve the freedom to build better lives for themselves in their adopted homeland. This modern edition of his posthumously published, timeless work -- with a new introduction by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and a foreword by Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director -- offers the late president’s inspiring suggestions for immigration policy and presents a chronology of the main events in the history of immigration in America.

As continued debates on immigration engulf the nation, this paean to the importance of immigrants to our nation's prominence and success is as timely as ever. About the Author
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) graduated from Harvard with honors in 1940 and served as a P. T. Boat Commander in the South Pacific during World War II. He was decorated twice by the Navy for the serious injuries he suffered when his boat was rammed in two while attacking a Japanese destroyer in the Solomons, and for "his courage, endurance and excellent leadership" in towing injured members of his crew to safety.

A writer and newspaperman, Kennedy in 1940 wrote Why England Slept, a best-selling analysis of England's unpreparedness for war, termed by the New York Times "a notable textbook for our times."

The son of Joseph P. Kennedy, former Ambassador to Great Britain, and the grandson of Boston's one-time Mayor and Congressman John F. Fitzgerald, Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946 at the age of twenty-nine, and re-elected in 1948 and 1950. In 1952 he became the third Democrat ever elected to the Senate from Massachusetts, receiving the largest vote ever polled by a Senator in the history of the state. He was President of the United States from 1961 to 1963. He was the youngest man ever elected to the Oval Office and the first Roman Catholic President. Introduction by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

My brother Jack wrote “A Nation of Immigrants” in 1958, and his words ring true as clearly today as they did half a century ago. No one spoke more eloquently about our history and heritage as a nation of immigrants or fought harder on behalf of fair and rational immigration laws than President Kennedy. One of his last acts as President was to propose a major series of immigration reforms to end the ugly race-based national origins quota system, which had defined our admissions policies in that era. As he told Congress in July 1963: “The enactment of this legislation will not resolve all of our important problems in the field of immigration law. It will, however, provide a sound basis upon which we can build in developing an immigration law that serves the national interest and reflects in every detail the principles of equality and human dignity to which our nation subscribes.”

A century and a half ago, all...
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