Forty five years ago on Oct. 1, my son, Ramez, and I landed at JFK airport to start a magnificent journey in this great country of ours. A journey that would change the course of our lives to a totally unanticipated trajectory.
They say that 30 years make a generation, so we have been in America for a generation and half. It is almost a lifelong experiment.
We did not plan to come to America – but if you believe in fate, fate is what propelled us to this level of stratosphere that is called America. We came to join Elene, my wife of almost 51 years, as she was finishing her Ph D degree. (She has two Doctorate degrees, I have only one, so I have to wash the dishes, which I really like anyway). But after Elene finished her degree, we found that we could not go back to where we came from. We had fallen in love with this beautiful country, and we also discovered that America fell in love with us as well. It was a real strong bond that tethered our fate to that of America’s. And what a journey this has been.
At the beginning we were in awe of the superficial stuff; the wide streets, the shiny gleamy cars, the numerous TV channels, the varieties of food from every part of the world, and the large, shiny and elegant indoor malls with numerous stores of all kinds and types. It was like getting someone who has never left a tiny town in the Midwest and took them to Chicago or New York. It was a remarkably overwhelming experience.
But all the overwhelming stuff was only on the surface. It is just like visiting a city for a few days. You just see only what is on the surface, but if you desire to know the heart of that city you have to put your tent there and live there and be one of its citizens.
That became our dream: To be citizens of this great country. Our visas needed to be changed and that took 13 years to achieve. In total, it took us 19 years to be American citizens. But it was worth the wait and worth the fight.
Gradually, we started to dig deeper to the core of this welcoming country. As our knowledge increased, our love and appreciation for this country multiplied several folds. In order to discover the depth of the greatness of this country, you have to get rid of the noises and the triviality that surround us day and night. You have to dig deep to find the core of this amazing experiment in the history of humankind. It was the first experiment of this sort to get people from every corner of our planet, from every ethnic background, every religion, every language, and every heritage, blend them together and, voila, you have an amazing country. It is really amazing when you consider how many countries that are much older than the U.S., but they have civil wars for decades and sometimes for centuries.
The question is: What binds all those people together? What makes this experiment a success? What factors are instrumental in maintaining this strange combination? In my opinion, it is the constitution and the rule of law. Here everyone feels like a first-class citizen, and they should. Yes, we have some issues with less than perfect treatment of segments of our union, but we are working on that, and we will succeed. Because if one citizen feels less empowered, then all of us are less empowered. If one citizen feels they are not realizing the common dream of equality under the law, then we are all not realizing that dream.
While our union is not perfect, we have the courage to face our inadequacy and acknowledge our shortcomings in order to grant success to every citizen of this country no matter where he or she is born, no matter what the color of their skin is or who the God they worship is. We are all equal. We are all citizens, and we are all integral parts of this beautifully oiled machine that is called the Unites States of America.
The longer we live in this country the more we are drawn to its core. Its core is as brilliant as ever, as strong as ever, as beautiful as ever and as solid as ever.
And after a generation and half in this beautiful country, my family and I are full of gratitude and appreciation for this precious gift of being American Citizens. We value and honor that gift with all our energy, all our hearts and our souls. Our gratitude is directed at every kind and generous American who welcomed us, supported us, encouraged us, and helped us. We will never forget your kindness and generosity. We hope we can translate that gratitude into a positive drive of helping and supporting others who may God put in our paths.
May God Bless this amazing country, our home, sweet home!