Putting it in Perspective: The “American Dream”
Posted by Ilanit Sisso on Fri, Jul 29, 2011 at 16:46 pm
A little over five years ago, I was sitting in the convention center in Miami anxiously waiting to become a United States citizen. Last week, I had the privilege of witnessing the same event through a different lens when I attended a naturalization ceremony in Washington DC as a bystander. The new citizens had all made it from different corners of the world. Thirty people from Lebanon, Peru, China and 15 other countries sat eagerly while they waited for it to finally become official.
The impressive and accomplished speakers each told their own unique story, but at the end of every speech they all gave the same advice – be proactive. The message came through loud and clear: engaged and involved citizens are critical for the future of this country. The promise of the so-called “American Dream” is there for all of us to take a hold of. However, merely having an American passport does not guarantee the “dream.” It is up to each one of us to make sure that we attain the dream – whatever that may be – by working hard and taking advantage of what this country has to offer. The speakers also all focused on the importance of voting, and encouraged the new citizens to exercise their right to have their voice heard.
At the ceremony, Janet Murguía, President and CEO of National Council of la Raza (NCLR), spoke about her personal experience. Her parents immigrated to this country seeking opportunities for their children. Her twin sister went on to become a federal court judge, another sibling attended Harvard Law School, and Janet went on to serve in the West Wing under President Clinton and now leads NCLR, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. Today NCLR works with nearly 300 community-based organizations, and reaches millions of Hispanics each year throughout the country. Sonia Gutierrez, Founder and CEO of the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in Washington, DC, also spoke at the ceremony about the work she has done at the school over the last 30 years after emigrating from Puerto Rico. The charter school provides more than 1,200 adult students with GED courses in both Spanish and English, citizenship classes, family literacy, English as a Second Language, among other things. Today, the award-winning school is considered one of the models at the national and international level for adult education.
These women exemplify what the “American Dream” means to me. Through determination and hard work, they were able to be successful in their fields of interest. Five years ago at my naturalization ceremony I did not fully comprehend what the term “American Dream” really meant. Over the years I have realized what it means that I live in a country where hard work and dedication have enabled me to reach my goals of graduating from the University of Florida, attending law school in the nation’s capital, and pursuing any future aspirations.