Last week I listened in while MIRA Field Organizer Renato Castelo trained a group of volunteers to register newly naturalized citizens to vote. He spoke in one room, while 250 about-to-be-naturalized people sat in another room, holding small American flags and listening to last minute announcements.
Renato spoke with so much energy and commitment. It was clear that it meant a lot to him to extend the invitation to vote to people. It was clear that he is passionate about citizenship, with its rights and responsibilities. He told the volunteers that as someone whose family came to the United States for a better life in a stronger democratic system, what was happening that day was close to his heart.
That this was happening in Watertown, so soon on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombings, was significant. Renato and the volunteers he was training were refusing to give in to nativism and mistrust of otherness in the wake of the Tsarnaev brothers’ heinous crimes. They were affirming their support of the overwhelming majority of today’s immigrants who come to the US to work hard, participate fully in a democracy, and live in peace alongside others. Surely this, too, makes Watertown Strong.