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ORANGE COUNTY COMMENTARY

Unity Is Our Human Quest

June 02, 2002|LUCIA DE GARCIA | Lucia De Garcia, an international business advisor, is president and chairwoman of the Irvine-based Multicultural Institute for Leadership.

Today, more than ever before in history, the economic, social and cultural relationships among countries are in urgent need of transformation, and they must be visionary.

These relationships must be broad and sweeping, cutting across geographical borders and socioeconomic boundaries. This vision can grow through mutual appreciation and respect.

Ultimately, this process can result in making a solid investment that builds a permanent bridge across the world for new areas of expansion and growth.

In the 20th century, millions of immigrants came to this country in search of a better world. Some were adventuresome pioneers, trailblazers, and leaders seeking fortunes. Today they come for a better education and freedom for their children, escaping political turmoil, religious persecution, poverty, and leaving behind their families and their culture. They face challenges they never expected.

Immigrant families come in search of "The American Dream." They bring with them the courage and the skills necessary to build a new life. It is important that they chose to overcome these challenges and aim to achieve success with family, career, and community, building a successful place to live. This is what epitomizes that dream.

The American landscape has changed. We are a rainbow of cultures, ethnic groups, and races, making us the most diverse place on the planet.

More than 135 languages are spoken in California. In Orange County, cities have become satellites of these immigrants' nations. This is unprecedented in human history.

Orange County is the nation's fifth-most populous county, and the best place to live in the United States, attracting thousands of people from all over the world. One in four residents is foreign-born. Orange County has the fifth-highest number of Latinos with 775,283. Santa Ana is the second-largest Latino city in the United States, with a 65% Latino population.

The 21st century presents new opportunities and new challenges. For some, it is the struggle to achieve citizenship. For African Americans, Native Americans, and women, it is the reinterpretation of the dream.

Diversity causes conflict and stress, but it is inevitable. It is a danger if you resist what is happening, and it is of value if you embrace it.

The Multicultural Institute for Leadership, with headquarters in Orange County, is an organization with a mission to reflect the value of diversity, and it advances that model for leadership.

The institute seeks to soothe multicultural challenges caused by diversity in business settings, and to transform energies into multicultural richness, sharing, and common ground.

With an annual convocation and bimonthly leadership forums, the institute ensures that civic leaders expose themselves to differences, and that ideas and strategies for multicultural success remain fresh in the minds of participants.

What needs to happen? Diversity makes good business sense. It is essential to evaluate diversity from a business perspective, balancing philosophy and ideology with practicality and practice.

All members of our diverse community can work together toward the common good while excluding no one.

We need to address these fundamental issues, opening new opportunities and challenges for social and economic development. We should focus on regional concerns within a global context, and look at the fundamental trend shaping the future of our county in the global marketplace and emerging global culture.

Building tolerance and building relationships across cultural groups to engage in dialogue with intercultural competent members will create a healthy society.

Leaders need to discuss the future of diversity and multiculturalism in the region through dialogues under the contexts of education, economic development, arts and entertainment, political empowerment, community participation, law enforcement, journalism and the media, sports, and health.

Finding common ground yet celebrating differences is a way to achieve unity. Abraham Lincoln said: "It is not where we come from, it is where we are going that matters." That is what the American Dream is all about.

To create unity is the most noble cause and it should be our human aim.

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