He didn’t dare shake her hand. He briefly put his hands into his pockets and then quickly pulled them out. That was disrespectful. He stood up straight. He borrowed his friend’s tie. It was way too short, but he thought he should wear it. He paced like an expectant father and shuttered every time the door opened. He wanted them to call his name. He didn’t want them to call his name. How do you prepare for one of the biggest days of your life? How could they take it for granted? They didn’t know what they had? How could they? They were born with it.
They startled him when they finally called his name. He behaved as though he had forgotten why he was there. Every sentence ended in “yes ma’am” or “yes sir”, as he slowly walked down the hall. He sat down at the disheveled desk, as she refilled through his file. Can’t change it now, but he couldn’t help wondering if he had made any mistakes. She knew he knew the answers. She asked them anyway. He would respectfully pause and answer flawlessly. He couldn’t help but be overwhelmed. She was honored that he was overwhelmed. He couldn’t help it.
For 757,434 people, this was their story. Three quarters of a million people legally became citizens in 2012. Three quarters of a million people filled out paperwork, were fingerprinted and studied American history. Three quarters of a million people were sworn in as new citizens of the United States of America. For them this was a dream come true, the fruition of their greatest desire. This was the day they had longed for. Hopefully, they would no longer feel foreign. They would no longer feel different. They would no longer feel like they didn’t fit in.
To some degree, we are all immigrants to this great land. From the founding fathers to the most recent landed permanent resident, we all have immigrant heritages. Most of us, our parents or our parents’ parents immigrated to this great country to pursue a better life. We came to pursue better opportunities. We came to be Americans. This immigrant entrepreneurial spirit is what has pioneered the American spirit. It has created a vast and diverse melting pot. It has created the very fabric of what it means to be American.
Immigrants, for the most part, are fueled by their oddity. What makes them different is what makes them so determined to succeed. Not fitting in could be disheartening, but it also could be what motivated them to work even harder to fit in. Not being American motivated them to work harder to be American. If we are truly honest with ourselves and really examine this great country’s history, we will find that our entrepreneurship is not as indigenous as we think. It stands to reason that we owe our American entrepreneurship to our immigrant roots.
Most immigrants, like our forefathers, made wine out of water. They came with nothing and spent their lives creating something. They cobbled together the language. They made familiar what was strange. They made a home in a foreign land. They didn’t complain about working a five dollar an hour job, when everyone else was making ten. They just worked twice as many hours.
If we all remember that at some point we were immigrants, we would see the world in a slightly different way. We would remember how to make something from nothing. We would make familiar what was strange. We would work two five dollar an hour jobs, instead of complaining about the ten dollars an hour we were making. We would show up at McDonalds with our Burger King uniform on. If we viewed the world through the eyes of an immigrant, maybe we would realize how lucky we are to be American.