At a time when Donald Trump and the Republican field stir up division and fear by using hateful rhetoric aimed at Muslims, Latinos, women, immigrants and refugees, it’s important to remind ourselves that they do not represent the common decency and progressive values of most Americans. President Obama offered us a powerful reminder of who we are yesterday. In meeting with Muslim leaders, he said ‘YOU FIT IN HERE, you’re part of America too. You’re not Muslim OR American, you’re Muslim and American.’

It is these essential beliefs – we are stronger because of our diversity; that being American is defined by common beliefs, not common blood; by faith in each other, not in any one faith – that are at stake in this election. The choice before us is whether to continue to be a pluralistic society, where new ideas and varying perspective allow our cultural, economic and civic life to prosper as it has for 250 years – or to cower and retreat. 

The America I know chooses the former. It is the America that drew me here as an immigrant, and the America I've seen emerge time and again when we are tested.  

I know America is too strong for their cowardice; that America is too great for their narrow mindedness.  I know that their fear mongering will be rejected, but it won't be easy.    

The hard, but essential, work requires us working together to protect our Constitutional freedoms. That’s exactly what our community did here in Washington in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, by coming together, standing up to hate, and creating OneAmerica, a community organization that fought back against dangerous rhetoric, secret detentions, deportations, and abuses of civil liberties. We proved that even in dark times, we CAN become our better selves.

America is strong because we continually rise above the hate—not always in time, not always gracefully, and we will certainly continue to be tested. But still, we recognize that one of the truly defining factors of America—different than any other country in the world—is that we are a nation that has built its identity on the contribution of immigrants from all over the world, many who have escaped the worst terrors in order to gain freedom. 

Sabah Muktar, the strong, young Muslim woman who introduced President Obama at the mosque, reminds me of the youth here in Washington who face incredible odds, yet speak out and get organized in order to stand up for their families and make our community stronger. They remind us over and over again that this is OUR community. It's up to us to build it together.