On Tuesday, Pope Francis made his first trip to the U.S. While here, he encouraged politicians and citizens alike to live up to our American ideals and strive to make a difference worldwide.
Francis began his journey in Washington, D.C., where he met with President Barack Obama early Wednesday morning. Once there, he gave a speech to 15,000 people who were assembled on the White House Lawn. Using a meager 600 words, he urged all Americans, both conservatives and liberals, to work together on a variety of difficult and controversial issues.
The pope immediately addressed the controversial issue of immigration, saying, “As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.”
He reminded all present of the important role immigrants played in building this country into the nation it is today and encouraged a more tolerant and accepting mindset on the divisive issue.
Immigration is currently under intense debate with the 2016 presidential race underway. It is refreshing to hear an inclusive outlook on the issue considering the main Republican candidates’ main opinions are to build a wall and majorly increase border security.
The pope also brought the issue of global warming under scrutiny and included a focus on motivating all Americans by claiming we are at a precarious moment in time to fight global warming in his speech. He said he believes if we act now, we can still change the detrimental course our environment is on and leave a better world for future generations.
He praised Obama’s clean energy plan, which is estimated to reduce power plant emissions by a third by 2030, according to whitehouse.gov. He said, “Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation.”
It is up to each of us to make an active decision to preserve our home. By choosing to positively impact the environment, we will ensure that there is a planet left for the children of tomorrow.
The following day, the pontiff continued his call to action in an address to Congress. He encouraged them to use their position to grow the U.S. and defend all of its citizens. He reminded Congress of the principles the U.S. was founded on, and the values they are there to uphold. He also spoke on the importance of satisfying the mutual needs of the nation and pursuing the common good.
Francis quickly abandoned formalities and jumped into a passionate plea for Congress to look out for the interests and wellbeing of the refugees. He said, “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.”
The pope made it abundantly clear that it is time for the U.S. to live up to its reputation. He pleaded for our nation to work toward the good of all. He brought to our attention many topics we can no longer ignore.
We pride ourselves on our freedom and equality for all but turn a blind eye to those in need. The pope’s galvanizing visit has hopefully set the stage for a culture of change, and it is time for us to answer his call and create a better tomorrow.
Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.