Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What it Means to Be American.



Tamar Jacoby
Defining Assimilation for the 21st Century
The New Immigrants: A Progress Report


Herbert J. Gans
The American Kaleidoscope, Then and Now
Stephan Thernstrom
Rediscovering the Melting Pot–Still Going Strong
Nathan Glazer
Assimilation Today: Is One Identity Enough?
Roger Waldinger
The 21st Century: An Entirely New Story
Victor Nee, Richard Alba
Toward a New Definition


Peter D. Salins
The Assimilation Contract – Endangered But Still Holding
Douglas S. Massey
The American Side of the Bargain


Gregory Rodriguez
Mexican-Americans and the Mestizo Melting Pot
Min Zhou
Assimilation, the Asian Way
Alejandro Portes
For the Second Generation, One Step at a Time
Pete Hamill
The Alloy of New York


Joel Kotkin
Toward a Post-Ethnic Economy
George J. Borjas
Economic Assimilation: Trouble Ahead
Amitai Etzioni
Assimilation to the American Creed
Peter Skerry
“This Was Our Riot, Too”: Political Assimilation Today


Stephen Steinberg
The Melting Pot and the Color Line
John McWhorter
Getting Over Identity


Michael Barone
New Americans After September 11
Stanley Crouch
Goose-Loose Blues for the Melting Pot
Gary Shteyngart
The New Two-Way Street
Tamar Jacoby
What It Means To Be American in the 21st Century



The New Immigrants and
What It Means To Be American

Basic Books, Paperback Edition, November 2004
Basic Books, Hardcover Edition, February 2004

Edited by Tamar Jacoby
Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow


Please consider the following talking points for interviews with Tamar Jacoby on the topic of American assimilation:

Tamar Jacoby, editor, Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What it Means to Be An American (Basic Books, 2004)

Tamar Jacoby, editor, Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What it Means to Be An American (Basic Books, 2004)

Tamar Jacoby Reacts To Samuel P. Huntington’s
“Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity”

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Tamar Jacoby is available to discuss Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington’s controversial new book, “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity” just published by Simon & Schuster.

Jacoby argues  that “Who Are We?” raises critically important questions about American identity, but in the end its answers are deeply disappointing – because of the way the book distorts the facts and exaggerates the threats we face as a nation.

  • The questions at the heart of the book could not be more pressing. What does it mean to be American? How do we as a nation hold together in an age of globalization, multiculturalism and historically high levels of immigration? These are critical questions – arguably the most important we face today.
  • All the more troubling, then, Jacoby says, that Huntington’s answers are so disappointing. Instead of wrestling honestly with the quandaries we face, he twists the facts to make his case and panders to readers’ fears with paranoid threat-mongering.
  • Huntington’s worst distortions have to do with immigration – particularly Latino immigrants and whether or not they are assimilating. On this, Jacoby says, Huntington could not be more wrong. Today’s Latino immigrants are different in many ways from the Ellis Island immigrants of 100 years ago, but they and their children are going to join the American mainstream just as quickly and successfully.
  • Huntington’s most egregious claim, according to Jacoby, is that today’s Latino immigrants are not learning English. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, study after study has shown, everyone in the Latino second generation – every Latino who grows up here – becomes proficient in English, and by the third generation, two-thirds of Latinos speak only English.
  • Huntington is also wrong when he suggests that Latinos don’t want to assimilate. The first generation – often ill-educated, unskilled laborers working two or three jobs to give their families a better life – may not have much time to devote to it. But there are few Latino parents who don’t understand that to get ahead their children must speak English and be fluent in American ways.
  • Contrary to Huntington’s claims, newly arrived Latinos and their children are among the most patriotic Americans, enlisting in record numbers to fight in Iraq and elsewhere. Outside a tiny circle of left-wing campus activists, there is virtually no Latino support for the idea of reclaiming the Southwest for Mexico – the millions of Mexicans who have voted with their feet to come to the U.S., often at great personal cost, know better.
  • Huntington is also wrong, Jacoby says, about what it means to be American. He is right that nationality matters. He is also right that there is something different about Americans: he calls it “culture,” though you could also call it “national character” or simply the American spirit – and people the world over know it when they see it. But he is wrong to claim that it is quintessentially Anglo or Protestant.
  • Of course, as Huntington points out, the Founders were Protestant Englishmen, and our political values – freedom, tolerance, equal opportunity, the rule of law – are a product of the British Enlightenment. But early Americans fundamentally reshaped their Anglo inheritance – most importantly by separating church and state and repudiating the British class system – to create a radically new nation based on a universalist conception of man. To say our national identity is Anglo-Protestant is to mistake origins for essence.
  • Because he so mistakes the nature of American culture, Jacoby adds, Huntington also mistakes what it means to assimilate. We as a nation have never asked immigrants to buy into the particulars of our culture, Anglo or otherwise. What we require is that they adopt our political values. And this in turn – the very fact of living in a democracy committed to equal opportunity – has made the newcomers into Americans, encouraging the ethos of individualism, tolerance, hard work and the freedom to reinvent yourself that is the essence of our national character.
  • Of course, Huntington is right that overheated multiculturalism can make assimilation more difficult. But a strategy based on scolding multiculturalists and suppressing ethnic difference will only backfire: after all, even immigrants who reject identity politics are offended when others tell them they have to give up the legacy of their parents and grandparents.
  • In the end, perhaps the most troubling thing about “Who Are We?” is Huntington’s lack of confidence in the power of American identity – both its resilience and its appeal. The American nationality has always left room for difference, and we need fear neither immigrants nor difference today. On the contrary, as long as newcomers are loyal to the U.S. and its values – as long as they understand that what we all have in common is more important than our differences – we as a nation will only profit from the determination and vitality they bring.
  • Jacoby concludes: it would be more productive, if Huntington and others who share his fears could channel their energies into a positive effort to draw new immigrants into the American mainstream. Instead of wringing our hands and crying wolf, let’s get to work helping newcomers learn English, encouraging them to become citizens, teaching them our political values and persuading them to participate in American politics and society.


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Review of Samuel Huntington's "Who Are We?" Washington Post, 5-16-04

Book Info:

Available at
ISBN: 0465036341
320 pages


Lindsay Young Craig
Vice President
Communications & Marketing
Manhattan Institute
212-599-7000 Ext.315

Advance Praise:

“Europe’s failure to assimilate its Muslim minorities, painfully evident in the wake of the September 11 attacks, makes the urgency of this task all the more apparent for the United States. Reinventing the Melting Pot underscores why a common culture is problematic but of critical importance in making the American nation work.”
Francis Fukuyama, author of THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN

“Although the debate is too frequently captured by bean-counters and economists, the issue of immigration and assimilation is probably the most important one we face, including terrorism, to which it is linked. We are either going to be a strong, united, proud, patriotic nation, or we will be in trouble and drag the rest of the world into bigger trouble still. Tamar Jacoby has put together a collection that should be read and studied by all those wish America well.”
Ben Wattenberg, American Enterprise Institute

“Nowhere else can one find between two covers so many informed and engaged analyses of recent immigration in relation to social cohesion and political democracy.”
David A. Hollinger, author of POSTETHNIC AMERICA

“America's relentlessly recombinant pool of genes and memes will confound any single ethnic group's attempts to own the mainstream—or to disown it. This lively and lucid book reminds us that being American means always becoming American, and it will help us appreciate the endless newness of our common identity.”
Eric Liu, author of THE ACCIDENTAL ASIAN

Reinventing the Melting Pot brings together many of America's top thinkers and writers to debate an old question that matters as much to our generation as it did to our great-grandparents.”
John J. Miller, author of THE UNMAKING OF AMERICAN

“In recent years, Americans have been intensely looking for themselves, and for the first time in history there is no agreement whether we belong to our ancestral background or to the promises of the foreground that might enable us to become who we want to be. In Tamar Jacoby’s timely and valuable anthology, this profound question is explored by thinkers of all persuasions.”
John Patrick Diggins, Distinguished Professor of History, Graduate Center, CUNY

Manhattan Institute