An Open Letter To The President

December 12, 2017

Dear President Trump:

I would like to extend an invitation to you, Mr. President. I am a 51-year-old high school English teacher from Minnesota. I have worked with 700 Muslim students over the last ten years. My students are overwhelmingly East African refugees who have arrived here recently. They are engaged, intelligent youngsters who are striving to gain an education so that they can be successful, tax paying members of U.S. society. I have direct experience with 130 Muslim students daily. They shower me with love, laughter, and kindness. They are determined to work hard to prove their mettle to me and, ultimately, to themselves, their peers, their families, and, indeed, to you.

My students prove, by their commitment to their education and to their abiding love for family and for this country, that your views of them are profoundly unfounded and illogical. My students have no interest in inciting terrorism or violence; quite to the contrary, they are befuddled by your religiously charged rhetoric and your rash attempts to restrict Muslims from entering this nation’s borders. My students have relatives in Somalia who are, like themselves, victims of an arduous twenty six years of war and unrest. Yet, you have chosen to ban them from entering the United States because of your fear of Muslims. My students and I find your actions inhumane. Your continued attacks on Muslims do not demonstrate dignity, plurality, and equality, the foundational elements upon which this great nation stands.

As a result of your actions, my students hold a genuine fear of you. This is unhealthy and frustrating. I think that your meeting my students might help to quell their fear of you. Your coming here would serve two purposes: it would allow my students to understand your perspective more clearly, and it would, I hope, help you to dispel your fear of them and to help dispel my students’ fear of you. It is apparent that you have minimal interactions and few genuine relationships with Muslims. If you did, I do not think you would choose to post videos, such as those you willingly chose to re-Tweet a few short weeks ago, that incite division and hostility against Muslims and, sadly, against my students who, by their religious affiliation, are caught up in the backlash that occurs as a result of such posts.

I ask you to cease your attempts to divide this nation into “us versus them” because, Mr. President, Americans do not want to live in an “us versus them” society. Rather, Americans (and my immigrant and refugee students who are part of this country’s fabric) simply desire to live in a nation that upholds all its residents’ rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These tenets are for all people, as our United States Pledge of Allegiance boldly states: “with liberty and justice for all.”

Since you seem to have limited exposure to Muslim folks, I invite you to my classroom. Come on in, and meet some teens who proudly wear the badge of Muslim even when you would prefer that they not exist. They do exist, Mr. President. My students would love the opportunity to shine for you and to show you their hospitality while sharing their hopes for the future that awaits them in this country. My classroom door stands open to you, just as it equally stands open, day in and day out, for my immigrant and refugee students.

Despite the differences I have with you on a myriad of important issues, I would welcome you in the same manner that I welcome my students. By doing so, it would be my sincere hope that you and my students could have an open dialogue that would allow you to better understand what it means to be Muslim in America, and, more specifically, what it means to be a Muslim refugee in America.

Mr. President, please come to Technical High School in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where we are presently celebrating our centennial. Najmo, Abdi, Katra, and Mohamed will show you what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. And that means all of our neighbors: Muslim, Scottish, Somali, German, Mexican, Hindu, Puerto Rican, Russian, Christian, Jew. All means all, Mr. President, and that even includes you. My door is at the ready.

Most sincerely,

Melissa W. Marolf