It is unfortunate that Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) vented their frustrations on immigrants with limited English proficiency and that they distort the definition of multiculturalism [Metro; May 8, 14 and 21].

The United States has been dealing with issues of multiculturalism since its inception, just under different names. What is new is that more groups are seeking to participate in what has been a mostly white and exclusive vision for this country.

Multiculturalism is an acknowledgment that the United States is a diverse nation and does not assume that any cultural tradition is ideal or perfect. It looks to the equitable participation of all individuals in society. It assumes that our nation can be both unified and diverse, that we can be proud of our heritage and of our individual group identities while at the same time working together on common goals. It is a reciprocal process based on democratic principles and a shared value system.

Those of us who believe that we are richer and stronger because of the diversity in our nation must not allow the misinterpretation of multiculturalism to shape the dialogue.

ELIZABETH PATHY SALETT

President

National MultiCultural Institute

Washington