Q&A with Founder David Lubell

Welcoming America | January 4, 2016

"We want to help the United States live up to its values as a nation of immigrants."

In January 2015, The Chronicle of Philanthropy named David to their first-ever 40 Under 40 list of young leaders from across the country who are crafting innovative solutions for tough problems, building the strength of the nonprofit world, and driving change in their communities and around the world.

Later this month, David will share this vision at the World Economic Forum in Davos as an invited Young Global Leader, where he will seek partners for the welcoming movement on a global level.

Get to know him and Welcoming America a little more through the following Q&A.

Will 2016 be the year of welcoming?

If we have any say in it, yes. Right now, there are more people displaced by violence than any other time in modern history, and we at Welcoming America are passionate about helping communities live up to the values on which our nation was founded. Values like diversity, inclusiveness, human rights, compassion, and fairness. In America, at our best, everyone has a fair shot at success, no matter your last name or heritage. 

While negative news surrounding immigrants and refugees seems to be the loudest narrative lately, there is a growing welcoming movement, often led by local communities, and we want to share those stories as broadly as possible.

Welcoming America partners with a growing, vibrant network of more than 100 cities, counties, and nonprofits that want their communities be welcoming and inclusive of all residents. These communities recognize the important ways that immigrants and refugees make them stronger economically, socially and culturally. They realize that not only is welcoming the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing for their community.

How have your roots shaped you and your perspectives?

Being Jewish has influenced me in different ways. Social justice and making the stranger feel welcome are important parts of Jewish teaching and thinking. There is a phrase for it – tikkun olam – to repair the world. From a historical standpoint, Jews have been persecuted for a long time. If you pay attention to history, you can see the tenuous position of groups and how quickly society can deteriorate. I don’t want that to happen to anyone, and the language being used sometimes against Muslims and other groups in our country is both scary and dangerous.

Of what are you most proud?

I am most proud of any role I have played in supporting the global welcoming movement. It’s much bigger than Welcoming America, but we can lift, propel, and move it forward. I also was very proud when we announced our 50th welcoming city – Decatur, GA – where my family lives. There was something about getting to 50 that to me meant welcoming was truly spreading and taking a life of its own. Now we have 115 welcoming communities and continue to grow.

How is Welcoming America unique?

If you think of immigrants as seeds being put into a new garden, we are unique in that we address the “soil” by not only directing services toward immigrants, but also creating a sense of belonging by engaging the receiving communities - the long-time residents of the places where immigrants make their new homes.

Welcoming America helps communities realize that by being inclusive, they will prosper. Our approach envisions communities - being led by local governments and nonprofits - working together to develop and implement comprehensive plans that result in measurable change in inclusive policies and the culture of their communities. And it works. A growing number of studies link immigrants – and welcoming – to economic and social gain; research on welcoming in Dayton, OH and Nashville, TN underscore this. It is important for the world to see that to welcome immigrants and refugees is beneficial, particularly at this moment in history. Locally, on the ground, people understand it.

Why do you welcome?

Welcoming makes us whole as individuals, as institutions, and as part of a shared humanity.

Learn more about how your community can become more welcoming

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