We at the Franco American Heritage Center wish to express our disapproval of Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald’s comments suggesting that Somali immigrants should “accept our culture and leave your culture at the door.”
We’re not denying the need for immigrants to accept the basic tenets of life in their new country and to abide by its laws. However, we also feel it’s just as important that immigrants not forget who they are and where they came from, and that they retain elements of their native culture as a means of maintaining their heritage.
It is ironic that such remarks come from a mayor of a city literally built by French-Canadian and Irish immigrants. It’s imperative that we respond to such comments forcefully and promptly, given that Lewiston’s immigrants faced similarly strong pressure to assimilate decades ago.
Our Somali neighbors have shown a willingness to adapt to life in Lewiston and to open businesses and we should be encouraging them to continue doing so. We don’t for a moment think that the mayor wishes otherwise, but it would help if he admitted his comments were at best ill-considered instead of defending them.
Let’s not forget that Lewiston’s dominant architectural feature is the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, built stone by stone and paid for by the area’s French Canadian immigrants. We close by leaving our honorable mayor a question to ponder:
Who’s to say what amazing future contributions to Lewiston our Somali neighbors might one day make?
Louis Morin, Lewiston
Executive director, Franco-American Heritage Center