Two years ago, my mom handed me an AAWE membership registration, with the words: “…join AAWE; if you have an American passport and dual nationality, it is thanks to them.”
My mother never considered AAWE to be just a social club. For her, it was a “cause” – an association that exemplified a bicultural, bilingual world in which my parents believed. Until the political ramifications of 2016, it was a world I rather took for granted and considered my just due. Interestingly, it is only now, when the whole idea of “dual nationality” seems to strike fear in those who believe in politically-closed borders, that I realize just how much I have at stake. Or, how ridiculous an idea it would be for me to be forced to choose one nationality over the other.
I am a 26 year-old graduate student at the University of Cambridge. Whilst I can’t participate in AAWE activities (other than reading the News and the weekly e-announcements, which for some reason make me terribly nostalgic), I will be sending in my membership fee once again this year out of support for what AAWE stands for.
A lot of effort went into making me bilingual and bicultural. My mom spoke English to me, my dad French; my parents stood patiently hopeful as my monolingual cousins seemed to be passing me by in the language lane. My mother dragged me to AAWE children’s events so I could get that taste of Americana and socialize with other young practitioners of franglais. The AAWE Guide to Education was a well-thumbed addition to our home library. Functioning in two languages and two cultures became the norm for me, not the exception.
Passport renewals at the US Consulate were a special time. I knew my mom was proud to take me to that little American island in the middle of Paris. I wouldn’t even have had that American passport to renew (and you wouldn’t either) if it weren’t for a group of AAWE women who started a group lobbying against US citizenship law 301 (b) which stated that I would lose my American nationality if I didn’t live there five consecutive years before age 23. If I am a bicultural “world citizen”, it is thanks in part to the support and activism my mother found in AAWE. And now, if my bicultural status or dual nationality is questioned, I know that AAWE will rally as an association to be out there “protecting the American citizenship of members and their children, especially in cases of acquisition of another nationality” (AAWE By-Laws Article 2 Purpose).
So…AAWE adult children and grandchildren, if you are in possession of more than one passport, if you speak more than one language, join AAWE out of support for what the association historically stands for. Add your single voice to their chorus of experienced citizenship rights advocates – AAWE has been at it since 1961. Our strength will be in our numbers. Support your mom’s courage to have taken the richer “road less travelled” to biculturalism. The AAWE membership fee is a small price to pay to acknowledge your thanks and support.
Believe in biculturalism, I do.
-Daughter of AAWE member