In the face of anti-immigrant sentiment, President Obama delivered a passionate address at the United Nations Leaders' Summit on Refugees on Tuesday. During his speech, he brought attention to the millions of refugees worldwide and called for unity in the face of a global crisis. The president powerfully shared a letter from a boy asking to adopt a Syrian refugee. Alex, who is just 6 years old, offered for his family to adopt a Syrian refugee as an example of international cooperation and incredible compassion.
Obama called the refugee crisis in Syria "unacceptable" and "one of the most urgent tests of our time," CNN reported. This comes on the heels of Donald Trump's son Donald Trump Jr., comparing Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles. Ironically, a former refugee took the photo Trump Jr. used to illustrate his point.
Trump himself has been openly against an influx of refugees entering the country, citing the issues of terrorism and national security. He asked if Syrian refugees are a Trojan horse last year at a conference in Tennessee. He has also suggested creating a safe zone for Syrian refugees within Syria itself, according to the New York Times.
But not all Americans feel the same way about allowing refugees into the country. You may remember Omran Daqneesh, a 5-year-old Syrian boy from Aleppo whose image was widely shared by news outlets and social media after he was pulled from the remains of his bombed home. In his letter, Alex, who is from Scarsdale, New York, told Obama, "We will give him a family, and he will be our brother."
Obama shared Alex's words at the summit as a lesson for world leaders. "The humanity that a young child can display, who hasn't learned to be cynical, or suspicious, or fearful of other people because of where they're from or how they look, or how they pray... We can all learn from Alex," Obama said.
Americans tend to be divided by party on whether they support accepting refugees, with most Democrats and millennials in support and most Republicans and Trump supporters against, according to a Brookings Institution poll. Only three refugees have been arrested since 9/11 due to terrorism, but when asked, most people polled much higher, with 28 percent percent estimating 100 or more refugees have been arrested for terrorism, 30 percent polling less than 100 refugees, and 26 percent polling less than 25 refugees. Only 14 percent answered correctly.
At the summit, Obama announced that 50 countries will take in 360,000 refugees this year, the Independent reported. He also said the United States will admit 110,000 more refugees in the 2017 financial year, BBC reported.
As Obama said, Alex's example is one we can all learn from. There is no excuse for xenophobia, especially in a country which is known for being made up of immigrants. While many cite concerns of terrorism, it is clear from the numbers that refugees have not been a threat to national security.
Alex hopes to welcome Omran with "flags, flowers and balloons," share his toys, and participate in a language exchange. His innocent wish to welcome a person in need is something we can all benefit from hearing about, and it reflects changing perspectives among younger people about the increasingly connected nature of our world.