H.J. Heinz, who founded the company that bore his name and created the wealth that in later generations endowed this foundation, was the child of immigrants, as were so many who started businesses in our community and so many who came here looking for work and for opportunities of their own.
In recent days I have been proud to see many Pittsburgh leaders take strong, principled stands defending the preservation of our community and country as places where immigrants are valued and welcomed, where those seeking to escape violence and build a better life still find refuge, and where no one is discriminated against based on the God to whom they pray. We stand with them.
Especially noteworthy were a pair of unequivocal statements from University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and Carnegie Mellon University President Subra Suresh. Their comments speak for themselves and I hope you will read them. What these two leaders understand so clearly is that abandoning our country’s traditions of inclusion and fairness is a formula not for security but for decline.
Throughout Pittsburgh’s history, its welcoming embrace of newcomers has been critical in contributing to this region’s success, just as it has for our nation as a whole. It has fueled the imaginative and the innovative, men and women who came here, put down roots and became the essence of this place as embodied still today in our vibrant patchwork quilt of neighborhoods. And whatever those men and women took from here they gave back immeasurably more through their labor, their ideas, their friendship and their philanthropy.
It is imperative that Pittsburgh remain an inclusive and welcoming city for all those who bring their culture and talents here and for those we hope in the future will make this region their home. For all of us, they make our lives richer, our economy stronger, and our community better.
A truly just community knows this. It knows that it can only succeed by being a place where everyone is measured by the essence of their humanity, the vibrancy of their potential, and the quality of their character—and not by the color of their skin, the nature of their religion, or the fact that they once arrived here from somewhere else.
By all means let our country protect its borders but also never forget this: No people in the history of the world have ever prospered or secured themselves for long by slamming shut the gates of opportunity behind them. All they succeed in doing is closing out the strivers and the dreamers who bring new energy and new ideas, who history has shown time and again swell the ranks of entrepreneurs and inventors and become the real “job creators” of the future.
We are called to ask ourselves who we really are and what we really stand for as a community and as a people. It is important to acknowledge that our country has never yet fully lived up to its lofty ideals. But it is in the ongoing pursuit of those ideals, in continuing to hold onto them even when they and we are sorely tested, especially in those moments, that we inch forward and come ever closer to achieving them. It is in holding those ideals closest when they are most threatened that we prove ourselves worthy of the promise that is this country, and this town that we are privileged to call home.