On Thursday, September 19th, in honor of Citizenship Day and National Welcoming Week, the White House said it will highlight Thomas Wahlrab as one of ten local "Champions of Change" heroes who "work tirelessly to effectively integrate immigrants civically, linguistically, and socially into the fabric of their neighborhoods by bringing all residents together to create welcoming communities."
Thomas Wahlrab, the former Executive Director of the City of Dayton, Ohio, Human Relations Council and the Dayton Mediation Center, appears to have done just that. Known as the father of Welcome Dayton, a plan he helped to formulate, Wahlrab, 84 years old, has built an impressive track record of experience and accomplishments to earn him the honor he'll receive this Thursday at the White House.
In his 2013 Proclamation for Constitution Day, Citizenship Day, and Constitution Week, President Obama said, "We are a proud Nation of immigrants, home to a long line of aspiring citizens who contributed to their communities, founded businesses, or sacrificed their livelihoods so they could pass a brighter future on to their children."
On Citizenship Day each year, he said, America welcomes the newest members of the American family as they pledge allegiance to the Constitution and join those who came before them in writing the next chapter of America's story. Immigrants have embraced the spirit of liberty, equality, and justice for all, throughout history, President Obama said, adding that "the same ideals that stirred the patriots of 1776 to rise against an empire, guided the Framers as they built a stronger republic, and moved generations to bridge our founding promise with the realities of our time."
Now retired, Wahlrab consulted with his conscience when he saw what he thought could be improved on in human relations. "For others, it was the economic factor,” Wahlrab told the Dayton University News in June. "For me, it was the human factor. If I see people suffering, how can I in my life live with that knowledge and not help?"
It's widely agreed that among the successes Welcome Dayton has achieved is gathering important community partners like Dayton Public Schools, University of Dayton, the Dayton Metro Library, law enforcement and clergy as a means of providing community tools for integration. A graduate of UD, Wahlrab said program synergy comes from "connecting and talking and helping one another in ways that weren’t happening before."
Lisa Singh, an Independent Trainer/Facilitator/Mediator who spoke on Wahlrab's Facebook page, said, "I have worked with Tom for years as a contractor for the City of Dayton Mediation Center. Tom has been not only an ideal, inspirational leader but also a man who is dedicated to the development of his profession. He has worked to inspire others through his leadership and support. His skills as a mediator are incredible and have inspired those of us who work with him to become more artful in our fields. I highly recommend Tom for any endeavor in which he aspires."
Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, commented that, to her, "There are few things as moving as watching our nation’s newest generation of immigrants become our country’s newest Americans." Immigrants make America a stronger nation, she said, adding, "I look forward to the day when we celebrate making earned citizenship available to more people by passing commonsense immigration reform."
What are the power of immigrants?
- Immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start their own business.
- Small businesses owned by immigrants employed an estimated 4.7million people in 2007, and generated more than $776 billion annually.
- Asian-owned businesses in Ohio have sales and receipts of $6.8billion. Latino owned business in Ohio have sales and receipts of $2.3 billion.
- The purchasing power of Ohio’s Latino population and Asian population, respectively is $7.7billion and $7.3 billion.
- Ohio has 22,370 foreign students who contribute $583.9 million to the state economy.
- 38.6% of foreign-born adults in Ohio have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- More than 87 percent of Ohio children with immigrant parents are English-proficient. (Immigration Policy Center)
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals, businesses, and organizations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. The Welcoming America Champions of Change are ensuring that America’s history and tradition as a nation of immigrants continues to enrich our communities and our country.
Dayton, a city in southwestern Ohio with a estimated 2012 population of 141,359, is also the county seat and largest city of Montgomery County.
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