According to the Declaration of Independence, all men were created equal!
Perhaps not in America, but at Harvard (which is not America) it’s beginning to feel a lot like it…
Right in the middle of the lazy days of summer we celebrate a national holiday that marks an important date in U.S. history: The Declaration of Independence. The author of the document, Thomas Jefferson wrote the following: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
On this day, an international group of Harvard students, just like so many others in the country, have fired up the grill on their front porch in order to celebrate the national holiday, but how deeply is this celebration felt among these international students at Harvard? And is the “Harvard Dream” equally accessible to everyone? Very much like the American Dream professed itself to be?
Iman has intelligent eyes, a full figure and a cascade of dark hair flowing all the way down to her hips. “I am originally from Pakistan,” she says in an enthusiastic voice. “I came here for my PHD in physics,” a large smile creeping across her thick lips. “Intuitive physics,” she adds, trying to read my reaction on whether it’s something I am familiar with.
She answers my questions with casual charm, continuing to smile frequently, ‘I am extremely grateful to be able to study at such a prestigious university in the US. For me it was and still is a dream come true. My country isn’t a good place to be right now. Especially if you are a woman and want to achieve something, you know…”
She stretches her back a little and leans against the fence. “I don’t really like celebrating America though. I mean, yes, Harvard is amazing, and I am glad to be here. It feels like an island. But I mean, let’s be honest. It’s not America”, now she wipes her sweaty forehead with a napkin, “But when it comes to what’s going on politically, well we are miles away from the original intent. I mean from what was written in the declaration of independence!”
“That we are all created equal?” I ask.
“Yes. Well, here at Harvard it’s different. I thought it was going to be all privileged rich kids. It turns out almost everyone I met is on some kind of financial aid. I am on a scholarship myself!”
Carlos, her stout boyfriend, black hair carefully combed back with gel, plants a kiss on her cheek and joins the conversation. She blushes a little.
“Yeah. We love Harvard!” he exclaims with an ironic tone, “I mean to be honest, I am from Venezuela. Who am I trying to kid? I am just glad I got out of that place, you know what I mean? My country is falling into pieces. It’s like a mass genocide over there for people from my generation. You can’t do anything. Nothing works!”
Jennifer, 24 and from Sacramento, a bouncy pony tail and a bright manner, moves toward us with fluid hips, carrying a plate of burgers, “Help yourself” she says with a big smile and a sweet voice.
We grab a burger each and bite into the sweet bread and the juicy meat. “Deeeelicious”, says Iman while chewing and closing her eyes in ecstasy.
“You know what’s ironic” says Jennifer, while chewing “The Declaration of Independence was signed by Thomas Jefferson suggesting that all men were created equal. What people fail to mention is that he owned over 200 slaves!” she takes a huge gulp of her beer. Carlos and Iman raise their Coronas and clink bottles “Well, there you go. Happy Birthday America!”
Later on I meet Jerrold (30), from Wisconsin, who is studying at the Harvard Extension School. He is tall and lanky, with pale eyebrows and wire rimmed, almost invisible glasses, shaded by a baseball cap. “Harvard is the most diverse school in the country in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomics and geography.” he says. “Especially students at the Extension School. They are from everywhere. America may not be true to its Declaration anymore, but Harvard is… And Harvard is not really America! I love Harvard. Not sure if I would ever say that I love America!”