The stranger has been within our gates ever since our Republic was founded: For three-quarters of a century he has constituted one of our most urgent problems; but only of late has he begun to receive the attention which he deserves. The great danger is that we will attempt to solve our problem with the same suddenness with which we discovered its existence, and that we will fail to give the proper time to reflection as to the best means to be employed.
one hears much nowadays of "Americanization"; but "Americanization", unfortunately, is a long word, which is not fully understood by either immigrant or native. In so far as it implies any concrete program, "Americanization" seems to connote a draught of medicine, administered with a certain degree of force, to a patient who hesitates, even if he does not struggle. The medicine, from our point of view, may be very beneficial. But that will not make it taste any better to the recipient; and unless the latter knows the purpose of the remedy, as well as the nature of his ailment, the cure is not likely to succeed.
The average alien does not understand what is the matter with him; and in many cases, unfortunately, he does not care. He does not understand the fundamental principles of Anglo-Saxon government, it is true; but it has taken our own race a thousand years to develop those principles to the point they have now reached and we cannot expect the alien to learn them in a day. If some of his opinions are opposed to ours, that does not of necessity make him (especially in his own eyes) either a criminal, to be forcibly deported, or an imbecile, to be forcibly "Americanized" into a mode of living which he does not understand.
The fundamental problem, as Colonel Woods pointed out the other night at the Union, is to win the confidence and sympathy of the alien. The average native citizen is too apt to regard the alien as a being apart; and he is prone to work out his own plans for the alien's salvation, without knowing much about the workings of the alien's mind. But a man cannot be cured of his ills, either physical or mental, without his own consent and active assistance. If we are to solve the problem of the foreign-born population, it can only be by enlisting their aid. Unless they understand exactly our aims and our motives, and lend their sympathy and co-operation, no program of "Americanization" can succeed.