On the popular television series “Shark Tank,” the “sharks” usually exclaim after learning an immigrant has made their fortune off an idea, “That’s the American dream!” In every case they equate making a ton of money as the American dream. I disagree.
Naturally, financial freedom is what we all want and hope for, but I think they diminish what I’ve learned from our friends who immigrated here.
My friend Rony and his wife immigrated from El Salvador. His brother was riding a bus in their homeland to work one morning when bandits pulled the bus over on a busy side road and robbed the passengers. The bandits shot his brother and left him dead on the roadway.
When I asked Rony if getting rich was his idea of “living the dream,” he replied, “Oh, hell no.” He said: “That my wife and I can work at any job we want and be safe in doing it — that’s my dream. My daughter attends good schools that are free and she even won a scholarship for college — that’s why I love this country. Also, here, the police and courts are honest and when applying for documents, you don’t have to pay bribes or wait for months — that’s my dream.”
Amaira is my wife’s friend and from India. She landed a job as a researcher at a Seattle genetics company. Her contribution to the company helped it find a promising cancer treatment, one that is now finishing clinical trials.
She laughed when I mentioned the “Shark Tank” quote and replied that her idea of the American dream is working at a job she loves and attending a church she chooses. She appreciates a friendly government that allows her the freedom to choose and a country that provides the opportunity.
Amaira said: “As a single woman I feel safe living alone here, and in my free time, I can take a class, ride my scooter, or pursue hobbies that I enjoy.” And by the way, she never mentioned money, not once.
Our friend Jasper and his roommates are from China. Jasper will have his green card soon and he told me, “Cities in China are so crowded and noisy with people. We love the Northwest — there’s room here to breathe. The Chinese government is so oppressive — they control everything and dictate all that you say and do. Here, you have a free press and can openly criticize your president — try that in China and you’ll be arrested.”
So, it hurts when I hear people tearing at this country and our government. Always complaining and even suggesting we’re a failed nation, one that’s lost its way. Next time you’re feeling bad about living in America, ask an immigrant why they’re here. It might surprise you.