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June 28, 2005 > Why I love being an american

Why I love being an american

We are about to celebrate the Fourth of July all across our country by going to picnics, shooting off fireworks (in the communities that still allow them), holding barbecues, and displaying our American flags. This holiday is very important to me, as it should be to all who enjoy the rights and privileges of being an American. We celebrate the birth of a nation that gave refuge to me and to thousands of people like me.

Being an American is something I don't take for granted because I am an "adopted American."

Like many of us, or our ancestors, I came to the United States from another country, another culture, and another language. I came to the United States at the age of 16 because my parents decided that they needed a better life for themselves and a brighter future for their only son. I was amazed then, and continue to be today, by the generosity of Americans that welcome people from other lands and offer them the opportunities to make their dreams possible. The sky is certainly the limit in our country.

I arrived in the U.S. in 1960 with my parents. We were penniless, and as a matter of fact, we probably owed for the airplane ticket. I now find myself, 42 years later, working in a very responsible position after completing post-graduate education and enjoying a six-figure income. This is certainly a long way from my first job, toiling in the fields of the Napa Valley, picking fruit. My story is one that I'd like to think is inspiring and unique, but it's really not. I know many people like myself who have come to this country equally penniless and who are successful by any definition.

The capacity for upward mobility and the wide range of opportunities is what makes our country great and unequaled throughout the world. That is the reason why we have a problem with illegal immigration, issues with legal immigration, and why we will always be, in the words of President John F. Kennedy, "A Nation of Immigrants."

What attracts immigrants to America is the simple fact that we admire and reward those who are industrious and have a high work ethic - people who make it in life despite the obstacles they face, who beat the odds, and who have a rugged determination. In essence, we like immigrants who are "hungry" and are willing to do what it takes to get ahead.

I have three friends that fit this description and definition very well. One, a Portuguese immigrant, came to this country penniless and whose first job was toiling in the fields of Ardenwood, picking vegetables. That friend is now a millionaire who owns considerable real estate, has owned a travel agency in the past, and is now an insurance broker.

My friend from India suffered through one of the harshest droughts in India's history and was once forced to eat grass to survive. His first job in the U.S. was working at a local McDonalds, cleaning floors. That friend now owns three McDonalds franchises and will probably own three more before he retires.

My Mexican-American friend learned to read, write, and do arithmetic while rehabilitating for a year in a hospital. During this time, he passed the High School GED and perfected his reading, writing, and analytical skills. Eventually he was admitted to UC Berkeley and graduated in three years. That friend is now the head of a national non-profit group that protects poor people from economic discrimination by financial institutions.

These cases are not that rare in our country. They are a source of inspiration and testament to the qualities that make our country great. Our founding fathers risked their lives to create a country with these qualities and foundations. Many people have paid the ultimate sacrifice to maintain our independence and way of life.

We must not forget to celebrate the birth of our nation and not take for granted what our country has given us, now more than ever.

I became an American, by choice in 1968, and I am certainly a witness to the qualities and principles that guide this country. I think that I have an appreciation for what this country stands for; that it is worth celebrating and defending at all costs.

Alberto T. Huezo

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