Former US President Bill Clinton recently held my family up as an example of immigrants that have done well in – and for – America. In his interview with Fareed Zakaria, President Clinton was making an argument that the US should open its arms to Syrian refugees. As evidence that Syrian immigrants can be good additions to the US population, he cited a Syrian[-Italian]-American family he grew up with in Hot Springs, Arkansas: my grandfather, grandmother, father, and aunts.
My great grandfather immigrated to the US from Syria. His son, my grandfather, who fought for the US in World War II, was stationed in Italy, where he met and married my grandmother. My father was born in Italy but the family returned to the US when he was still a baby. There he and his four sisters grew up down the street from Bill Clinton.
While I have to admit a small flash of pride in having my family mentioned by a US president, the real pride is in America. For all its faults, sometimes it truly does live up to its reputation as the land of opportunity. It is a place where poor immigrants can come, start a new life, and have children who grow up to be physicists, accountants, teachers, nurses . . . or even President of our country.
Both sides of my family came from modest means and both sides have worked hard to create secure futures for their children and grandchildren. I’m not only proud to live in a country where this is possible, but also grateful beyond measure. My family is truly living the American Dream.