This I Believe

Sylvia - Simsbury, Connecticut
Entered on December 1, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: immigrant

This I believe

By Sylvia Ho

I believe that America is the land of opportunity. I believe that America is generous. And I believe that Americans can live prosperously with a world that is filled with opportunity for all people in every nation, who, believe it or not, also share the American dream. I believe this because, as a Chinese immigrant, I am an American, but I am also part of the world.

I came to America when I was seven years old from Hong Kong to reunite with my grandfather, who had served with the American merchant marines during World War II. Despite his service to America, the law did not allow Chinese to be granted citizenship until years later. My grandfather was not able reunite his family until almost thirty years after settling in America. My meeting with my grandfather at age 7 was the second time I had seen him in my short life. Still, I was grateful to this strange grandfather who struggled in this foreign land in order to enable our family to live a better life.

My grandfather lived alone for many years without a family in order to fulfill the American dream. He started a small business, a restaurant in 1948, where he invested his life savings. He slept on the counter of his restaurant after the restaurant closed because he was homeless. The restaurant would employ many people over forty years. It contributed taxes to the government. It gave a hand up to newly arrived immigrants. It allowed my grandfather to give us gifts that he never enjoyed as a child.

My grandfather retired in the late 1980s, just when I had just started law school. He donated a large amount of his retirement income to found elementary schools in China. Despite lack of formal education, my grandfather taught himself to read and write in two languages. But, he told me to never underestimate the value of an education. He told me that he wasn’t an educated man and he didn’t have all the answers. He advised me to learn from other people I would respect. But, his humble man taught me something that was most important; that the key ingredients to achieving the American dream came not from any academic degree but from within- ingenuity, hard work, perseverance, initiative, and yes, the value of education, formal or otherwise.

As we now struggle with a globalize world, some native-born Americans, who grew up in this prosperous country, perceive Asians overseas as an economic threat. But, I don’t see it that way. I see many grandfathers looking for opportunities for those yet unborn. I see that these workers are looking to fulfill the all our dreams. Call it not an American dream, but a dream of prosperity that is a dream of humankind everywhere. And, might we as generous Americans, with ingenuity, hard work, perseverance, initiative and education help to create a world of opportunity and prosperity for everyone?