Westport is filled with all kinds of people.
We are citizens, and we are on various types of visas. A few of us are undocumented.
We are 1st-, 2nd-, 3rd- and 4th-generation Americans, and more. At least one of us — hey, Jacques Voris! – has had family in Westport for at least 10 generations.
We may be descendants of the Pequot tribe here — I’m not sure. If not, every one of us came from somewhere else.
We came from England, Germany and — hey, Saugatuck! — Italy. We came from Canada, Russia, Japan, India, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria.
We came from Norway. And from Haiti.
In the wake of President Trump’s comments yesterday — do I have to remind you he called Haiti and African nations “shithole” countries, and wondered aloud why we don’t have more immigrants from Norway — I reached out to Westporters from those specific places.
Stephanie Mastocciolo is a 1st-generation American. Her parents moved to the US to continue her grandfather’s work in the Caribbean music industry.
Her mother was adamant that Stephanie and her 2 younger sisters take advantage of the limitless opportunities in the US — in education, and for their careers. Her mother wanted her girls to become well-rounded, open-minded individuals here too.
She calls Trump’s comments “offensive, hurtful and very un-American.”
She acknowledges, “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Yes, it has a lot of political, social and economic problems. But many — if not all — nations do.”
Trump’s comments sadden her, “because America has come a long way to break down stereotypes and barriers that divide people. America was built on the hard work and ideas of people looking for a better way of life.
She adds, “All nations should be referred to with respect and facts, not ignorant opinions. His comments speak for themselves. They show the true colors of the President of the United States.”
Camilla Moe Røisland moved to Westport in September, with her husband (whose company is building windmills off Long Island) and 2 of her children (a 3rd — and their dog — arrived recently). She worked as a news presenter, reporter and producer for Norway’s biggest radio/TV company.
Camilla does not know if she should take Trump’s words as a compliment or not. She is proud of her country — but does not like it being singled out as a “good one” in comparison to others.
“That’s not worthy of a president. Doesn’t he know, or understand, that the US is built up by immigrants throughout history?” she asks. “America’s strength comes from diversity.”
Trump is right, Camilla says, that Norwegians are highly educated in general, and hard-working. But, she adds, “that doesn’t mean that we are better or smarter than others. We are lucky because we live in a country that gives people both opportunities and security.
“We have a good health system. We take care of everyone. And we believe that all are equal — you are worth a lot even if you are not a male, white, heterosexual and rich.”
So why did she and her family move here?
Her husband had a great work opportunity. They looked forward to a new experience.
It was challenging, sure. But Westport is beautiful, Camilla says. They’ve met “so many nice, warm and welcoming people. We love living close to New York, which is a very exciting and fun city.”
It’s also a city filled with people from all over the world. Including Norway and Haiti.
Westport is too.
And I believe that many — if not all — of my fellow Westporters are glad and proud to count Camilla and Stephanie as our neighbors.