As a young immigrant to the United States, Yasmina Shaush feels the weight of several generations who have high expectations for her. Ms. Shaush has come to believe that the beauty of America is the opportunity for success through hard work and determination.
In the opening scenes of Titanic, Jack Dawson and his Italian friend, Fabrizio, win tickets to travel aboard the ill-fated ship in an auspicious game of poker, and Fabrizio exuberantly yells, “We go-a to America!” Drawing inspiration from real life, Fabrizio exuded the hope and belief that immigrants throughout the world have regarded for America. For over two hundred years, America has served as a beacon of opportunity. America truly is the “Land of Opportunity,” a land where the self-made man is found on every corner; a land that serves as a litmus test to all other lands; a land where wealth and social status do not inhibit one’s potential. I believe that in America, anything is possible.
Every day I am reminded of this possibility. I am an immigrant. To discern me from the crowd of purebred, made-in-Americans is impossible. I speak with no accent and dress no differently. I am American, through and through. The true distinction is found in my perspective. Each morning as I sleepily trudge off to school, my mother reminds me, “I brought you to this country, now do something with it.” The weight of that statement propels me through my myriad of classes: history, government, and especially math. With each class and homework assignment I complete, I feel the pressure of not only grades and deadlines, but the even more immense pressure of expectation—three generations of Ukrainian relatives. Instead of shying away from this prospect, I face it full-on.
Regardless of birthplace, 310 million Americans face the same expectation. To be born in America is a gift, one that should never be wasted. Even through today’s pessimistic climate, I find it easy to be optimistic, simply because of where I live. While my mother grew up in the shadows of communism, I was raised in the light of freedom and democracy. Anything is possible in America, anything.
The United States is one of a few countries that can boast the successful by-products of hard work. Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin and received no formal judicial education, yet rose to prominence as a lawyer, and later became Commander in Chief. Oprah Winfrey grew up in abject poverty, only to become one of the richest women in the world. And even Madeleine Albright emigrated from Czechoslovakia to become the first female Secretary of State.
The true beauty of America lies not in its fruited plains or purple mountain majesties, but in the determination of its people. In lieu of the 9/11 attacks news outlets report that hatred for the United States is common. This is simply a fallacy. Countless people travel across oceans, jump across fences, and float in small boats to seek amnesty in America’s gilded doors. Just as millions of people sought refuge in the U.S. during the great migrations of the late 19th century, today that zeal to live in America still exists. The United States is a land of opportunity, and hard work and determination are vehicles for success. This, I truly believe.
Yasmina Shaush's family came to the United States from Ukraine when she was only seven years old. Ms. Shaush wrote this essay as a high school senior when she was busily writing essays for college applications. In reflecting on how blessed she felt to be given the opportunity of going to college, she wrote this essay. Ms. Shaush is now a college student at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Independently produced by Dan Gediman for This I Believe, Inc.