On the rally in Washington Square Park. Would Einstein Be Welcome in America Today?

On the rally in Washington Square Park. Would Einstein Be Welcome in America Today?


1/29/17 [Photos: David Kramer]

Today, hundreds gathered in Washington Square Park to protest President Trump’s executive order to halt refugees and visitors from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the United States.

destler and wife

RIT President Bill Destler and his wife Rebecca Johnson

Included was Rochester Institute of Technology’s President Bill Destler and his wife Rebecca Johnson. President Destler said many RIT students could be effected by the order that he thinks is both unconstitutional and un-American.

George couldn’t attend the event. But he provides a reflection on other Americans who came from other countries.

Would Einstein Be Welcome in America Today?

What would the history of art be like if Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter and World War II refugee, was denied access to New York City in 1940?

What if Marc Chagall, the Jewish-Russian painter, was unable to escape Bolshevism for asylum in the U.S.?

What would have happened to Madeleine Albright, the former U.S. Secretary of State, if she and her family did not flee to America from Czechoslovakia in 1948?

What about Hannah Arendt, the brilliant author and political theorist, who was born in Germany, in 1933? She fled persecution by the Nazis, eventually becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 1950.


members of the Rochester Anti-Fascism Network

How different would the field of anthropology be if Claude Levi-Strauss, the French-Jewish ethnologist, was turned away from America after he was stripped of his citizenship under the Vichy Anti-Semitic laws?

What would the world of letters be like if Vladimir Nabokov was killed in the Russian Civil War rather than emigrating to the safety of America. Or if Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian writer and winner of 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature, was not allowed to go to the U.S., but was executed in the USSR?mother kids

And what would have happened to Mr. Einstein if Princeton did not receive him in 1938? The Nobel Prize-winning physicist escaped Nazi Germany because an American university was willing to honor and reward his intellectual gifts by granting him both tenure and liberty all at once.

Is it different today because the aforementioned names are mainly white European intellectuals who are from non-Muslim countries?

Simply put: Trump’s illegal ban on refugees is fundamentally un-American. This nation does not have the right to turn groups away. Nor does it have the right to shut groups down. It is a country bound together by the principles of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. These principles apply to all people.

For more than two centuries the policy of openness, trust, and love of diversity, has paved the way for groundbreaking achievements in the arts and sciences. It is the spirited invention of the immigrant’s journey that has been our greatest legacy. It is what makes our nation admirable. If nothing else the world loves us because we are a nation of immigrants. From the first people to trek across the Bering Straight to the next El Salvadoran migrant to cross the Rio Grande, America is America because they are here.

brockport family

This family came from Brockport and was interviewed by Channel 10 News

With that being said, just think about it. What if Albert Einstein was stuck at JFK right now because he is a Jew from war torn Europe?

George Cassidy Payne


Rachel Barnhart


Remember, Rochester is a “city of sanctuaries.”

Looking at refugees not as a technical problem but as a human experience

In Washington Square Park remembering the first March for Woman’s Lives, April 1989

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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