Migration Past, Migration Future: Germany and the United States

By Klaus J. Bade; Myron Weiner | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
An Immigration Country of Assimilative Pluralism Immigrant Reception and Absorption in American History

Reed Ueda

The continuous immigration of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was thus central to the whole American faith. It gave every old American a standard by which to judge how far he had come and every new American a realization of how far he might go. It reminded every American, old and new, that change is the essence of life, and that American society is a process, not a conclusion.

-- John F. Kennedy, 1958

This was America. But America in the uniqueness of its extreme situation often foreshadowed the destiny of the whole western world of Europe.

-- Oscar Handlin, 1956

U nlike the nation-states of Europe, the United States has historically been a country in which heterogeneity formed the basis of the state. While the history of European states centered on consolidating homogeneous ethnic nations, in the United States the state arose from a democratic-cosmopolitan nation shaped largely by immigration. Indeed, the United States is usually classified as the outstanding case of an "immigration country," a state resting on a transplanted creole population of diverse and mixed ethnic ancestry.

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