Forty-four years ago this week, I came to America. I had no idea what to expect. Most of my information about this country was from American movies that I adored.
But that was a very superficial way to look into this vast country. I had minimal, or no, knowledge of what America represented and what it meant to be an American. I had heard the phrase the “American Dream,” but I did not know what it meant and how to achieve it. It was an elusive concept that I thought it did not apply to us. I did not know if an immigrant like me can make it in this complex and sophisticated society.
That day changed my life and my family’s life. Without that day, my son Ramez would not have been the remarkable young man who told us, “Without mom and dad’s fighting to stay in this country, I would not have been the man I am now.” Without that date my daughter Mary would not have had the chance to go to Harvard and to meet her amazing husband, Steve, and to bring to our world, Benjamin, the most beautiful grandson the world has ever seen. That day was like a new birth and a new beginning for me and my family.
It did not take long to understand in depth what the American Dream meant and what American Exceptionalism actually meant. From the first day we arrived to this country, and until now, hundreds of people extended to us hands of friendship, of assistance, and support. To all those people who helped us along the way, we tell them we are very grateful for their kindness and support and for welcoming us with open arms and open hearts. That deep level of welcoming and support imprinted a deep positive impression in our hearts and minds, of this great country and its wonderful people. That was the perfect demonstration of the greatness of this country and its exceptionalism.
These days our country is facing many challenges that threaten its core image of exceptionalism and greatness. In the midst of these perfect storms, I have been asking myself if I would do this again. Meaning if I were to think of coming to America these days, would I do it? And the resounding answer is, “Absolutely!” and unequivocally. “YES!”
During the last few years our country’s voices were smothered by noises coming from several directions. Noises of racial divide and inequality and the resulting demonstrations and the unfortunate ugly destruction of life and property … Noises of political divineness and polarization … Noises of a cruel pandemic that took the lives of more than 200,000 Americans in a few months … Noises of economic uncertainties and anxieties.
These are, for sure, important issues, but the problem is that all these noises smothered the faint voices of millions of Americans who work day in and day out to make a living and to help their country progress and prosper. This discrepancy is due to the fact that those noises are coming from megaphones that are tuned to the highest volume while the average American’s voice is very faint and does not reverberate as loudly as the other voices.
Millions of Americans continue to be kind and generous to their fellow citizens whether they share the same political philosophy or not. Millions of Americans continue to provide for their families and extend their helping hands to help others who have suffered the economic hardship that engulfed many of us. At soup kitchens they don’t ask their guests if they are Republicans or Democrats. When someone stops on the highway to help a stranded motorist they don’t ask if they are Republicans or Democrats. The hundreds of people who helped us when we came to this country did not tell us whom to vote for. They were just helping a new family to adapt to their adoptive country.
The American Dream is everywhere to be seen. You see it in the sparkling eyes of small children of immigrants as they go to their first day of school. You see it in the brisk walking of young men and women going to their first day at Harvard or Stanford university. You see it in the big smiles of immigrants swearing their oath to become American citizens while waving the American flags. You see it in those standing for the National Anthem as they put their hands on their hearts and sing, “Oh, say can you see ...”
You see it and feel it and smell it in every city, village, metropolis or island. Yes, the American Dream is alive and well and will continue to inspire generations for years and decades to come.