In a recent television commercial the spokesperson said, “America is coming back”. The overall message of the ad was that things are better so it is O.K. to spend your money on their product and that it is, in fact, patriotic to do so. But America did not go anywhere. The best of what we always have been has never left. Here is an example of that from our own community.
The face of the young man standing at the check-in table confirmed his Hispanic surname and Japanese family name. Jorge Nakashima’s hair was neatly trimmed and conservatively styled, the pilot’s shirt was gleaming white, starched and creased with military precision, the dark blue trousers had knife-edge creases and, of course, his shoes gleamed. I already had noticed his name on the roster of that day’s testing candidates and now wondered what his story was and why a pilot wanted to become an air traffic controller. As things turned out, it wasn’t necessary to ask.
Some of that day’s group of candidates taking the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) air controller pre-hire screening test had traveled a long way to take the eight-hour test, but Jorge was local. Some in the group were focused and sharp and a few looked a bit lost and ragged around the edges. Jorge stood out with the confidence of a young man who knew what he was about.
I was having a casual conversation with a group of the day’s candidates before we began testing and, without prompting, Jorge volunteered his story. A poor Japanese man had immigrated to Mexico, married there and created a son who loved airplanes and dreamed of being a pilot. Eventually hard work and a soccer scholarship to a university in the States put the dream within reach. However, after two years the school decided that it needed new equipment more than a gifted, soccer-playing student with a green card. Broke again, Jorge returned to flying in Mexico. Always looking for a way up, he decided to try leveraging his aviation knowledge into a career with the FAA as a controller. His dream is to become an American citizen, work hard enough to earn the money to pay for a family trip to Japan so that his father can show them the country he left so long ago.
Jorge’s story is as old as the first people who came to this continent far longer ago than the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock. Archeological evidence now seems to suggest that the first people came here from several directions over a long period of time. From thousands of years ago to this day they, and we, came in search of an opportunity to make a better life for our families and ourselves. That drive and diversity is the energy that illuminates America as a beacon to the world. Jorge Nakashima knows that and we should not forget it.
NOTE: “Jorge Nakashima” is not the young man’s real name, but he is very much the real thing.