On the last page of last week's Outlook India magazine, Nandini Mehta commends India for the comfort with which Indians chose a Catholic-born woman as leader. She is bemused that Americans cannot easily accept a woman and a minority candidate as president. She says, "I suppose that's the difference between a 5,000-year-old civilization and a 200-year-old one."

I am only an engineer, not a sociologist, or an anthropologist. But I know Americans are immigrant people from all over the world: Indians; Egyptians; other Africans; Iranians; Syrians; Iraqis; dispersed Jews; South-American Indians with a past of their own; Chinese; Koreans; Japanese; cerebral Europeans — in short, people from places that have been cradles of ancient civilizations at some time in human history. Civilizations comprise cities, monuments, literature, the arts, music, institutions of governance, religions, all created by humans. Diverse peoples emigrating to America have carried in their baggage old and new know-how that goes into making a civilization.

That makes the American civilization the oldest in the world.

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