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February 2015

Archive for February 2015

Another Win for the Pledge of Allegiance!

A Message from the Executive Director
Friday, February 6, 2015
Dear Friends,

It was at a 1970s speckled Formica art deco kitchen table situated under the one window in that hot kitchen in San Juan, Puerto Rico that I proudly showed my parents my elementary school grades. It was there, after dinner, my father did his Adult English Education homework and joked in horrid English that his accent was “Bostonian.” It was at that table that I sat to open a fat envelope from a college in the Midwest to find out I was the first in my family to be admitted to a university in this country. It was at that kitchen table my mother announced she was returning to work because we were all “old enough.”

It was many years later, once I was married, at a different kitchen table, that my husband received a call from the Marine Corps. He was being recalled to active duty for an unknown amount of time. Our children were 6, 4 and 6 months old. When the war had first started after 9-11, I had asked my husband his chances of deployment. He was a Marine Corps Reservist and I was worried. He waived my concerns away and he quipped (and this is something I remind him of, ever so often): “Chances? One in a million!”

Only eight days after that call, he was gone. His business was put on hold. I became, quite suddenly, a one-parent household. My children needed me at home. I had temporarily left my full time job here at the Becket Fund to be with them. So I took on another job to supplement my husband’s Marine Corps officer’s salary. And I worked entirely from my kitchen table—early in the morning when the kids were asleep or late at night after putting them to bed.

If that kitchen table could talk! It would have many good stories to tell about our family and funny things kids have said at meal times. It would have some sad stories, like that morning I found out my dad had passed away and I wept over my coffee. It would have some serious stories to tell like the time my husband and I reviewed his last will before his deployment to Iraq.

Tonight at my kitchen table, I get to tell my now teenage kids some awesome stories about my work here at Becket. I get to tell them about our client, a 17-year-old highschooler from New Jersey, Samantha Jones, who stood up for the right to say the Pledge of Allegiance and just today (!) won in Court. I will remind them of this while we eat classically Cuban food—black beans and rice, roasted pork, avocado salad and fried bananas.

I will take the chance to remind them of Cuba, a country like the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany where a dictator decided that people only had rights if they came from the state and imprisoned or murdered those who disagreed. I will remind them for the umpteenth time of my family fleeing from Castro’s Cuba and my mother’s concentration camp experience in Germany.

I will insist on being thankful for the fact that we live in a country where we have both food and freedom, where we have the right to live according to our deeply held convictions—a country where there is no cop at my kitchen table, where I don’t have to whisper my ideas or smuggle my books. A country where every child has the right to sit out the Pledge of Allegiance or stand up and say it in its entirety including the words “under God.”

I will remind them we can do all this because of what the words in the Pledge of Allegiance mean. I will remind them that I work at Becket because I so passionately believe in protecting our freedom and in reminding our government that our rights do not come from the government and therefore they cannot take them away.

Have a great weekend!

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director