In honor of this past Fourth of July, two American immigrants reflect on how the United States of America holds a special place in their hearts.
As of last Sunday, the United States is 245 years strong. The joy with which Americans celebrated the notable day could be heard in the whistles and pops of fireworks and, of course, sensed through delectable barbeque aromas from backyard grills.
The country has a lot to celebrate in just one day, one very important day. Gloria, an immigrant from Afghanistan and, above all, a happy and thriving American citizen, celebrates the diversity, kindness, and flourishing that she has experienced since day one in the nation.
“[The] USA has been kind to me and my family. From day one, I have encountered so many different people of all colors, cultures, and religions.”
Gloria felt as if she was off to Peter Pan’s magical Neverland when she arrived in New York City as a nine-year-old. To her, the limousine waiting for her mother and her upon their arrival and “the aisles of chocolate and potato chips” were “fairy-tale moments.”
She described that her move to the United States had been facilitated by the generosity of her uncle and a church. She noted that this kindness instilled in her amazement and gratitude both towards those who helped her and towards the new country that she would from then on have for a home.
“My uncle and cousins greeted us at the airport,” she recalled. “The church had set up a very nice apartment with my uncle’s help. There was a furnished refrigerator full of food.” All of this, she reflected, was “kindness I will never forget.”
Such are the memories that Gloria has never failed to remember after over 40 years of living the dream in America. Gloria shows deep appreciation for that American dream, the dream that she enjoyed on the very first day and still enjoys as the owner of a prominent hair studio in Old Town Alexandria. “You can live your dream life if you work hard. This country allows that.”
Claire, a U.S. resident and a French national, also shares a deep appreciation for “the greatest country in the world.” When asked about what she loves most about America, she said the following:
“I love the freedom that this country allows, the freedoms the U.S. Constitution defends, and the energy and enterprising spirit that permeates all walks of life. Some dramatic changes have taken place in the past ten years, but I still think there is a unique American spirit simmering underneath the current divisions. This is the greatest country in the world, the strongest economy and most powerful military. It’s also a vast land that allows profoundly diverse people to live side by side. Where else could you find communities of Amish people, Hasidic Jews, Hispanic immigrants, Silicon Valley workers, African American men and women, people of all races and creeds coexisting peacefully? There is a reason why large numbers of people always try to immigrate to the United States, and that’s because of the promise of freedom and peace and the reality that it’s a wealthy and safe haven.”
On the Fourth of July, she enjoys celebrating the freedom, spirit, strength, and peace found in the country, and, of course, she does it the American way: watching fireworks and spending time with her family and friends.
The United States is founded on the spirit and dreams of Gloria, Claire, and other immigrants from every corner of the world. Whether you are a new American or one through your ancestors, let’s cheer for a great 245 years.