As I write this blog, the Russian army is invading the bordering country of Ukraine. War is hell, and my heart goes out to the people of Ukraine. Americans who were born in the United States have no idea what it feels like to have their country invaded militarily by another nation. Ukraine was a territory of the former Soviet Union that declared its independence immediately after the fall of Berlin and the end of the Cold War in 1991. Many people believe that the long-term goal of the Russian president Vladimir Putin is to rebuild the Soviet Union – and strategically, Ukraine, the second-largest country in Europe and rich in natural resources, is an important piece of that plan.
In the U.S., Ukrainian nationals Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko are known as two of the best heavyweight boxers of their generation. The Klitschkos are in the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of title fight wins by two brothers. Towering at 6’7” Vitali only lost twice in his long career with both losses due to injuries that required the referee to stop the fight. He held the WBC world title until he retired at the age of 42. I remember when they were boxers, hearing that the Klitschkos were educated guys that earned Ph.D. degrees in their twenties. However, I was not aware that Vitali, who is five years older than Wladimir, began a political career on the Kyiv City Council while he was still boxing. In 2014, the older Klitschko was elected mayor of Kyiv. Kyiv is the capital of Ukraine and the largest city in the country by population.
Last month, as Putin’s invasion plans became evident, the Klitschkos enlisted in the Ukraine army reserve and have vowed to take up arms and fight to defend their city and nation. Both brothers say they have no choice. Their staggering pledges put our own problems here in the U.S. in awe-inspiring perspective. Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko earned millions as boxers and could be living comfortable lives as wealthy celebrities in the United States or any country of their choosing. Instead, they have chosen a life of service to the people and country they love. They are, in my view, the definition of heroes. If Putin succeeds with his nefarious agenda, it is more than likely that millions of Ukrainians will flee and find refuge in other countries including the United States. I expect that we will welcome many of them, as we should. My guess is that the large majority of those refugees will become productive members of our society, eternally grateful to the country that took them in during their darkest hour. Immigrants have always gotten the job done!
Now let me tell you about some other heroes, many immigrants in this country also come from countries where life is less than certain. The things that those of us who were born in this country take for granted are only a dream to people from certain regions in Africa, Asia, and South of our border. The problem is most of the people from those regions of the world are not White, and therefore will not receive the same public support or compassion. You can argue that if you’d like, but it’s a fact. I bring this up because our economy has been growing at an anemic pace for years. Housing inventory is at an all-time low in large part due to labor shortages in the construction industry. In simple terms, we are in dire need of more workers, and the problem is only going to be solved through immigration. Math doesn’t lie. It’s a shame that immigration has become so political. It wasn’t always that way. Ronald Reagan himself said that the day we close our doors to immigrants is the day we will lose our leadership in the world. We are testing that theory today. Our country and our economy need workers at all levels. Yes, we need Ph.D., but we also need construction workers and just about everything in between. I hope and pray for the Klitschko brothers and all the citizens of Ukraine, and I feel the same compassion for the millions around the world who are living in oppressive regimes and fear for their lives, daily. They deserve to live their lives in peace. The positive news is some of those people are exactly what we need in this country today – brave, hardworking, family-loving people who will only make the nation stronger and better than ever. The question is whether we have the intellectual capacity and political will to do what’s right or will we continue to evolve into a society mired by tribalism and divisiveness?