Yesterday, 5-year-old Sophie Cruz had what was probably one of the best days of her life.
The daughter of undocumented immigrants eagerly broke past security as Pope Francis rode by and was rewarded with a hug from the global religious leader. In that touching moment, she handed him a handwritten letter that outlined her plea for immigration reform.
The heartwarming story of the little girl with a determined spirit and an important message made international news.
It was fitting lead-up to the pope's agenda today, which many thought would be far less warm and fuzzy: giving a historic speech to Congress.
In his speech this morning, Pope Francis covered a variety of issues, from climate change and poverty to the death penalty and, yes, immigration. If you listened closely throughout, you'd have heard quite a few things that are sure to have made little Sophie proud.
Here are five lines from Sophie's letter, paired with lines from the pope's speech to Congress, that make me wonder if the bold little girl had a hand in writing it:
Sophie: "I want to tell you that my heart is sad,"
Pope Francis: “I also want to dialogue with those young people who … face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults."
The pope began his remarks by listing the groups of people who were a priority for him to speak with and think of during his trip to the U.S.
High on that list were young people. He could have just addressed them in a generic, cliche way, as most people do when they speak of children, calling them "the future" or "hope for tomorrow." Instead, he made note of how many children are suffering the consequences of decisions made by adults.
He was speaking, of course, of the children whose hearts, like Sophie's, are sad.
Sophie: "I have a right to be happy."
Pope Francis:“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Sound familiar? The pope quoted this line from the Declaration of Independence for a reason: a reminder to Congress that we have the unalienable right to pursue happiness here, the land of the American Dream. Sophie knows it too. What would happen if elected officials kept that in mind?
Sophie: "All immigrants just like my dad help feed this country."
Pope Francis:“I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day's work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and — one step at a time — to build a better life for their families. ... These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. "
The pope wasn't speaking exclusively about immigrants here, but he made clear that he was talking to the hardworking people in this country who aren't just taking care of themselves and their families.
He was talking to the many people who are taking care of our entire nation through their work and their concern for others.
And it sounds like Sophie's dad might be in that group.
Sophie: "They deserve to live with dignity. They deserve to live with respect."
Pope Francis:“You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics."
Sophie sounded very clear on this point, and so did the pope: Everyone deserves basic human dignity.
But Pope Francis took it one step further and reminded Congress that their #1 priority should be to protect it. He not only believes that Sophie's parents and all humans deserve dignity — he's making clear whose job it is to ensure that they get it.
In other words, "I got you, Sophie."
Sophie: "My friends and I love each other no matter our skin color."
Pope Francis:"We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good."
Unity, solidarity, and oneness were repeated themes throughout the pope's remarks. He called politics an "expression of our compelling need to live as one" and spoke of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work in the civil rights movement as one of four Americans who exemplified the type of leadership and moral courage we are desperately in need of today.
On this front, little Sophie employed some boldness that the pope (who notably made no reference to race, racial discord, or discrimination) did not. But maybe her edits on his draft got cut for time?
Pope Francis' speech and Sophie's letter are both wonderful reads, so make sure to check them out in their entirety.
While the 5-year-old may not have actually helped write the pope's remarks, it's clear that her letter yesterday went straight to his heart because today, in speaking to Congress and boldly encouraging them to help the vulnerable, welcome the stranger, and protect the American Dream, the pope did exactly what Sophie asked.