May 152013

We are come to rest and push our roots more deeply by the year. But we cannot push away the heritage of having been once all strangers in the land; we cannot forget the experience of having been all rootless, adrift. Building our own nests now in our tiredness of the transient, we will not deny our past as a people in motion and will find still a place in our lives for the values of flight.

In our flight, unattached, we discovered what it was to be an individual, a man apart from place and station. In our flight, through the newness, we discovered the unexpected, invigorating effects of recurrent demands upon the imagination, upon all our human capacities. We will not have our nest become again a moldy prison holding us in with its tangled web of comfortable habits. It may be for us rather a platform from which to launch new ascensions that will extend the discoveries of the immigrants whose painful break with their past is our past. We will justify their pitiable struggle for dignity and meaning by extending it in our lives toward an end they had not the opportunity to envision.

—Oscar Handlin in The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People

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