“Senator Barack Obama responded sharply on Friday to attacks on his foreign policy, linking President Bush and Senator John McCain as partners in ‘the failed policies’ of the past seven years and criticizing them for ‘hypocrisy, fear peddling, fear mongering,’” reports The New York Times.

Well, when it comes to fear peddling and fear mongering Michelle Obama takes a back seat to no one, considering how often she uses the word “fear” in her speeches.

Michelle Obama should check out this profile of philanthropist Roger Hertog by The Wall Street Journal’s Naomi Schaefer Riley:

Having grown up in a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx with a single mother, Mr. Hertog tells me, “The only place you could actually go and think, not that I pride myself on such great thinking, but you’d go to the library.” The first book he remembers reading there was Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, which he says sparked his interest in American history.

His parents fled Germany in 1938 and Mr. Hertog was born three years later. “You’re 8, 9, 10 years old, and you start asking yourself questions. You know, I have no relatives. I have basically one cousin and one aunt. All the others were killed in the Holocaust. And so you start to ask yourself troublesome questions. Why me? What happened to them?” From that point, Mr. Hertog says, he couldn’t help but conclude that “America is a really unique place. You begin to take enormous pride in the ideas that have propelled the exceptional American story.”

A first-generation American, Hertog got a lot further up the socioeconomic ladder than most, but a new study suggests that the US is not the cesspool of failure and despair that Michelle Obama sees. Rather, America continues to draw immigrants because they can succeed here like nowhere else.

A 10-year, $2 million study of adult first-generation Americans (born in the US with at least one foreign-born parent, or who came here before the age of 12) in the New York metropolitan area found “they are rapidly entering the mainstream and doing better than their parents in terms of education and earnings – even outperforming native-born Americans in many cases,” reports The New York Times.

The researchers conducted 3,415 telephone interviews between 1998 and 2000; 333 in-person follow-up interviews in 2000 and 2001; and 172 follow-up interviews in 2002 and 2003. The study compared five immigrant groups – Dominicans, Chinese, Russian Jews, South Americans (Colombians, Ecuadoreans and Peruvians) and West Indians (from the English-speaking Caribbean, including Belize and Guyana) – to native-born whites, blacks and Puerto Ricans born on the mainland. According to The Times:

The study identified broad similarities among adult children of immigrants. They were overwhelmingly fluent in English; were less occupationally segregated than their parents; lived longer with their parents than native-born Americans; and were firmly rooted in the United States, with fewer personal and financial ties to their ancestral homeland than their parents.

The Russian and Chinese second-generation adults had higher high school and college graduation rates than, and earned as much as, native-born whites their age. The other groups reported higher educational attainment and earnings than native-born blacks and Puerto Ricans their age. In almost all of the immigrant groups, women outperformed men in school, though men continued to earn more.

Russian Jews and Chinese were more successful than the other immigrant groups. Russian Jews typically had more education when they got here, and benefited from government programs and Jewish philanthropic initiatives for refugees. The researchers were at a loss to explain why “Chinese youngsters have achieved the greatest educational and economic success relative to their parents’ often humble origins” – even after noting that the Chinese form strong communities with “a high degree of social connection between its better- and worse-off members,” put off marriage and children until they finish their schooling and are less likely to divorce than other groups.

Here’s a crazy thought: It could just be that the children of Chinese immigrants do better because they have community support, parental support and are encouraged to concentrate on their studies – the classic formula for success generations of immigrants have used. But then, The Stiletto is not a researcher – she’s just the child of highly educated English-speaking (legal) immigrants who stayed married and encouraged her to concentrate on her studies – so, really, what does she know?

In speech after speech, Michelle Obama claims that in America, success is “always just out of reach” and that “fear creates this veil of impossibility, and it is hanging over all of our heads … our fear is helping us to raise a nation of young doubters, young people who are insular and they’re timid. And they don’t try, because they already heard us tell them why they can’t succeed.”

In contrast, the researchers conclude that across the board, all the immigrant groups they studied have “shown that they have the drive, ambition, courage and strength to move from one nation to another” and pass those traits on to their children.

Instead of making unfounded assertions about “we,” “our” and “us,” Michelle Obama ought to narrowly focus her observations to that slice of the black community worshiping at churches like Trinity United Church of Christ. Rev. Jeremiah Wright and other pastors who espouse Afrocentric, separatist, liberation theology are teaching generation after generation of black children – and their parents – that “racism is the American way”; “no black man can ever be President”; and in “comparing African-American children and European-American children in the field of education, we were comparing apples and rocks.” There’s your “veil of impossibility.”

While Rev. Wright looks at black American children and sees “rocks,” immigrants from Belize, the Dominican Republic, Guyana and elsewhere see their children as jewels who will shine in America. And leaving aside Barack Obama’s candidacy, another non-white child of immigrant parents is being floated as a possible vice presidential pick for John McCain: Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA).  

Clearly, Michelle Obama and Rev. Wright are living in a different America than the one black, brown, Asian and white ethnic immigrants sacrificed so much to come to.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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