Sometimes being born in this country makes one oblivious to what it really means to be a citizen of the United States of America. Sometimes the freedoms we inherited are taken for granted. Yes, there are millions of patriots who really love this country and are loyal to its ideals, Democrats, Republicans, Independents and others. Today I honor all.
Today I am honoring the first nation in the Americas to stand up against taxation without representation, the first nation to break the chains of ties to Europe and say to the world: “We can stand on our own two feet. We are farmers, laborers, the poor, the working class, the rejected from European aristocracy, and we dared to leave friends and family to find a way to feed ourselves, even at the risk to our lives. You are not helping us, therefore leave us alone!”
Research shows 100 million current citizens of the United States of America can trace their roots to Ellis Island. That means that at least 100 million of us descend from immigrants. Of course the number is higher if you count immigrants like myself who came into this country through other ports.
Today I honor the 10,000 Chinese that labored day and night to build a cross country railroad which turned a six month journey into a six day train ride. I honor the Scandinavians that cleared and cultivated the great plains of this country which now feed all of us and even export to Asia! I honor the German and English peasants who helped forge the laws we now live by, the Irish on whose backs the industrial revolution was won, the Jewish people who modeled ethnic pride and religious freedom and whose ardent effort against discrimination led to the development of the Anti-Defamation league which paralleled the rise of similar organizations such as the NAACP, and the African Americans brought over against their will, but who in addition to their contribution to art, music, literature, and cuisine led the nation in the Civil Rights Movement, the Italians who made beautiful contributions to the culture and entrepreneurial spirit of America, keeping the strongest links to their native culture and language until the immigration of Latinos. Ah, and Latinos, or Hispanics as some call us, the largest minority group in our country, we who have been here from the “get-go” alongside the English and Germans, also have a history of contribution, from the fuel that has powered it’s factories for over a century, to music, art and cuisine. Hispanics and Latinos also have participated in the military of the United States and in every major military conflict from the American Revolution onward. And, I honor all other ethnic groups of this great United States of America, because it is our spirit that makes us great. That immigrant spirit that still calls out from our bowels: “Oh hell no they didn’t, let’s do something about that!”
Thank you to Andrew Carnegie whose innovations in mass producing steel have made skyscrapers a reality in China and the world over, to Nikola Tesla a Serbian-American, who found believers in American industrialists and without whose innovation the PC would be useless, thank you to Elisha Otis, whose safety brake system made the contemporary elevator a reality for the skyscrapers in Dubai. Thank you to all inventors and scientists who come to this country because we support your dreams.
Today I thank this country and us, it’s people, who in spite of struggles to make up our minds on how and when, and where to do it, we still provide free education, free medical care, free breakfast, free lunch, and free housing to the underprivileged. We are still free to complain, protest, and change our government. Today I am thankful that as a 16 year old high school student who worked full time at night in a sewing factory to help out my family, I could dream of going to college for free, buying a BMW, owning my own home, traveling the world, owning a business, and making a profit, all of which I have done, in spite of not inheriting anything.
The Emma Lazarus poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty reads:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" -Emma Lazarus, 1883
Happy Birthday to us United States of America!