LAWnMaking EnglishnOur NationalnLanguagenby Stanley DiamondnThe 1988 election marked anothernmilestone in the effort to clarifynour nation’s language policy and preservenEnglish as our common language.nArizona, Colorado, and Florida votersnall passed ballot initiatives to make Englishnthe official language of state government.nThis raises the number of states thatnhave declared English their official languagento 17, and momentum is buildingnin other states for similar action. Butnwhy, some ask, after two hundred yearsnwithout any official policy on language,ndo we need to act to preserve thentraditional role of English? What hasnprompted the voters in these states tonmake English the official language?nThe League of United Latin AmericannCitizens (LULAC) is one of thennation’s oldest and largest Hispanic organizations.nAt the time of its founding,nin 1929, the members of the organizationncreated a statement of purpose tonprovide clear direction for the futurenwork of the organization.nAccording to that statement, one ofnthe group’s stated goals is “[t]o fosternthe acquisition and facile use of thenofficial language of our country that wenmay hereby equip ourselves and ournfamilies for the fullest enjoyment of ournrights and privileges and the efficientndischarge of our duties and obligationsnto this, our country.”nThis statement is a fine example ofnthe proud and patriotic tradition ofnHispanic-Americans. However, it is alsonimportant because it shows how far thenconsensus on the importance of Englishnhas eroded in recent years.nUnlike the founders of LULAC,n44/CHRONICLESnVITAL SIGNSnsome contemporary political leaders,nlike former Miami Mayor MauricenFerre, have rejected the traditional consensusnon English as a common language,nsaying, “Language is not necessarynto the system. Nowhere does thenConstitution say that English is ournlanguage.” Ferre also told the TampanTribune that “[w]ithin ten years therenwill not be a word of English spoken —nEnglish is not Miami’s officialnlanguage — one day residents will havento learn Spanish or leave.”nMaurice Ferre, unfortunately, is notnalone in holding these views. A reportnprepared for the Department of Educationnon the proceedings of a conferencensponsored by the National Associationnfor Bilingual Educationnreported that “[m]ost speakers expoundednat length on the need for, andneventuality of, a multilingual, multiculturalnUnited States of Americannnwith a national language policy, citingnEnglish and Spanish as the two ‘legalnlanguages.'”nThis is a dramatic shift from thensensible and responsible policies of thenfounders of LULAC and other ethnicnassociations that have supported ournhistoric consensus on the need tonmaintain a common language.nIn the last few decades we have seenna number of political concessions tonthose who favor greater official recognitionnof languages other than English.nIn reaction to the cultural consciousnessnmovement of the 60’s and 70’s,ngovernment has been increasingly reluctantnto press immigrants to learn thenEnglish language, lest it be accused ofn”cultural imperialism.” Rather thanninsisting that it is the immigrant’s dutynto learn the language of this country,ngovernment has instead acted as if itnhas a duty to accommodate the immi-n