Independence Day 2020: An Immigrant's Reflections on the Fourth of July

By Augusto Carneiro, Founder & Chief Friendship Officer of Nossa Familia Coffee
edited by Karen Lickteig


When I arrived in the USA 24 years ago from Brazil to study as a foreign exchange student at the University of Portland, I loved learning about American culture and all of the fun and different customs. The 4th of July is definitely one of those great traditions — full of friends, barbeques, fireworks and good ol' summer fun.

This year, the 4th of July definitely feels different — more subdued and even a bit somber. We’re still in the midst of a global pandemic that our country (and my home country) is struggling to dig out of, and going through an incredible period of civil unrest as the Black Lives Matter movement literally fights for the lives of Black folks and the cause of dismantling systemic racism and oppression. 2020 is definitely one for the history books, and it’s only half over!

As I reflect on this day, I am pondering the words on our passports, the words written on the base of the Statue of Liberty — our "Mother of Exiles," and all that the USA strives to be. I'm pondering all the work still ahead so that everyone in this country gets a fair start towards their own American Dream. Independence Day is a cause for reflecting on how far we’ve come as a nation since the Founders declared independence from tyranny, and how far we still have left to go for the causes of freedom, justice and equality.

As an immigrant who chose to become a United States citizen, I recognize the great privilege of holding this coveted passport, and I also recognize with this privilege comes great responsibility. It’s the responsibility to speak up for the ideals of freedom and equal rights, and for those who don’t have the same privilege simply by happenstance of birth or because of the color of their skin. As I have learned more about American history and culture, I have come to more fully understand and appreciate what truly makes American great, and what it is today, and what we hope for it to become. It's our diversity, our collective vision and calling to strive for justice and freedom that we can't lose sight of. 

My wish for my kids and for all fellow Americans is that we continue to grow in awareness of our own privileges, that we keep working for justice, and keep building an America that allows all its residents the pursuit of happiness. So on this 4th of July, between the burgers and the sparklers with close family and friends, I invite you to reflect on the meaning of this holiday, and the important responsibility we have to uphold these ideals.


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