July 9, 2008

Obama: All Children Should Speak Spanish

Last Edited: Wednesday, 09 Jul 2008, 9:58 PM CDT
Created: Wednesday, 09 Jul 2008, 9:58 PM CDT

Barack Obama / AP FOX 26 News


HOUSTON -- At a town hall meeting in Georgia this morning, presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama told an audience that, "you need to make sure that your child can speak Spanish."

Speaking in Powder Springs, Ga., the Illinois Senator said that the nation's chief priority should not be for immigrants to learn English, but for American children to learn Spanish.

"Senator Obama's idea is characteristic of an elitist mindset declaring that it is not the job of immigrants to America to learn English, but that it the job of Americans to learn the language of the immigrants," said Mauro E. Mujica, Chairman of U.S. English, Inc. "This runs counter to our proud history as a melting pot and counter to the belief of most Americans. Clearly, Senator Obama has spent too much time at the lectern instead of interacting with the American people."

Few dispute being bilingual is an invaluable tool.

That's why Houston resident Paul Tichy said he is taking a Spanish class.

"My take is people will interpret it as they will, regardless of what he really meant," Of Obama's comments, Tichy said. "I think he's trying to appeal to as many voters by sitting on both sides of the fence."

Conservative radio talk show host Michael Berry had a day off from his popular program, but he was already sounding off on the topic.

Berry said he thinks Obama is pandering to a small segment of the population.

"Hispanics in America speak English and Americans Speak English," Berry said. "For him to refer to a language as required, I don't think that speaks well of a presidential candidate."

Recent polls have found overwhelming support for making English the official language of the United States. A 2007 Zogby poll found that 83 percent of Americans favor making English the official language, including substantial majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

"As a naturalized citizen of the United States, I am appalled by Senator Obama's comments," Mujica continued. "When I came to this country, I knew I was coming to a nation of many different nationalities, none more prized than another. I also knew that English was the unifying force between the diverse people, and that it was the language of opportunity and success.

"Nationwide, more than 25 million Americans who struggle with English, who are stuck in menial jobs and low wages because they are unable to converse with the majority of Americans. More than two million of these are native-born Americans who have come to rely on the crutch of government multilingualism. While I agree that we should encourage our children to learn additional languages, telling parents that they must enroll their children in Spanish classes is completely misguided."

Twice in the last three years, the U.S. Senate passed measures to make English the national language and to reduce multilingual entitlements. Legislation is currently pending in both the House and the Senate that would make English the official language. One bill, H.R. 997, the English Language Unity Act, has nearly 150 bi-partisan co-sponsors.

U.S. English, Inc. is the nation's oldest and largest non-partisan citizens' action group dedicated to preserving the unifying role of the English language in the United States. Founded in 1983 by the late Sen. S.I. Hayakawa of California, U.S. English, Inc. can be found on the Web at: www.usenglish.org

Click here to see the full video story by FOX 26's Sally MacDonald.

Copyright 2008 Fox Houston (KRIV). All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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