This Iranian expat is indebted to George Herbert Walker Bush, who believed in the value of immigrants from all over the world to contribute to the fabric of this incredible nation.
It was late fall in 1988 when my family was granted the opportunity to immigrate to the promised land.
In Persian circles, the United States is often referred to as the “promised land,” a country where the impossible becomes possible should you put in constant effort through education, hard work and persevere to overcome all hardships in your path. You do all this to become the best possible version of yourself.
Perhaps the least-known fact about the Iranian majority is its boundless love for America, and all things American. Despite the 1979 hostage crisis that nullified an otherwise robust U.S.-Iran alliance, and the hateful rhetoric of the current Islamic regime, Iranians simply knew better than to ever stop loving America. And they readily embraced her unmatched immigrant promise, which decades later culminated in a successful community of Iranian Americans who steadfastly contribute to all facets of American life.
After eight years in war-torn Iran, where bombardments were an accepted part of daily life, my destiny would take a very different path in 1988. I would soon be introduced to the never-ending hills of San Francisco, the grace of Victorian row homes, the view of a bay that rivaled the Caspian Sea, and a remarkably majestic bridge they called the Golden Gate, despite its deeply red color.
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I felt extremely lucky and grateful to all the smiling American faces that welcomed me and my parents to this land of plenty, wishing only that they would speak slower so I could actually understand them. And although they never slowed down, I did eventually catch up.
Shortly after we arrived in San Francisco, the presidential debates were in full force, and most nights were spent eating an array of exotic American foods, including lots of burger options, and immersing ourselves in American politics. Most important, we were digesting the election process of a healthy democracy vs. the tyrannical theocracy we had experienced in Iran.
Despite understanding very little English, I insisted on watching the debates with my father, who was certain the taller gentleman with the silver-rimmed glasses would be the next president. His name was George Herbert Walker Bush, he was the current vice president, had been the head of the CIA and was in my father’s words “a remarkable American.”
He looked stern to a 9-year-old girl, a bit like an exacting teacher, one who would expect excellent grades from all his students.
As I went to bed on election night, anxious for my first day of fifth grade in a new school, I knew only a few words of English, including the name of my first American president.
And as the school bus meandered through multiple streets the next morning, peeking through the San Francisco fog was his name again, perched high up on a street sign, quietly proclaiming Bush, a winner’s name from the night before.
Thirty years later, both as a proud American and Democrat, I am still indebted to this remarkable Republican who believed in the value of immigrants from all over the world to contribute to the fabric of this incredible nation, to make America stronger, to better serve her every day so that her republic endures, and the grace of her promise to broken masses from all corners of the world remains unshaken.
Thank you, Mr. Bush. You were my first American president, and I love you for it. May your spirit soar.