It was interesting to watch what I could of both the Democratic and the Republican national conventions recently. With the political posturing so evident in this election season, it’s obvious the candidates of both parties are looking to appeal to the “everyman”.
Your “Average Joe”, if you will.
Marco Rubio. Mitt Romney. Julian Castro. Democrats and Republicans alike are recounting the immigrant stories within their own families, in the attempt to win the voters who have their own immigrant stories.
You can’t fault these politicians for using the unique immigrant experience to try to sway votes that could help them win. We all have recollections of parents or grandparents that have inspired us with their personal successes of achieving the American dream.
The stories are unique, but the story line follows a familiar pattern. Immigrants, whether they be Spanish, Italian, Polish, or Irish, made huge sacrifices for the good of their families. Some went to bed hungry so their children wouldn’t. Others, like my grandparents, worked multiple jobs to make sure the family had enough money to survive, then thrive.
My grandparents also left school early to aid in the financial support of their households.
They persevered through the Great Depression and willed their way to success. Because they knew if that feat was accomplished, the generation that came after them could enjoy a better life.
As one of the Democratic participants stated in a speech, “Their stories may never be famous, but in the lives they lived, you will find the essence of America’s greatness.”
Despite the campaign mudslinging going on now, with keywords such as entitlement and redistribution, the candidates seem to agree here: the strength of the country, and the economy within, was built on the very formidable backs of people from other nations.
I’m more than happy to share the stories of the immigrants that influenced me. Yeah, the blog has occasionally meandered into the subjects of weight loss, Joe Paterno, cell phones, and the importance of being a patriot, but it’s mainly concerned with one very important topic.
My family, immigrant status and all, and how they molded and shaped the lives of those around them.
I like to, and choose to, write about different things. That won’t change. But I hope you’ll come along for the ride as I take a closer look at this one topic near and dear to my heart in the posts to come. It may be difficult to think that a bunch of diminutive Italians could teach you a thing or two, but I think you’d be pleasantly surprised.
As both Democrats and Republicans have demonstrated: the saga of the immigrants and their American story is one of the most important of our times.
If you saw the conventions, what do you think? Were the speakers sincere in their praise of their immigrant connections, or did they seem to be pandering for votes? State your case in the comments! And don’t forget to subscribe for future updates!
3 thoughts on “The Immigrant Song – Inspiration Around Every Corner”
Several of my childrens’ closest friends are first generation Americans. Their parents all came here within the last 35 years or so. We have had several discussions about this and how hard it must have been and at times still be.
Sometimes we go to their homes for celebrations and there are small groups of older family members who hang out together. Some of it is because their English is rough and some of it I think is because during these family celebrations it can be hard to be so far away from all that was once familiar.
I did watch both conventions, and being an immigrant (legal) myself, I believe they were sincere in their praise of the immigrant connection. My father was the first one of my immediate family to come to America (1960), he came at the request of his brother Sebastiano, your nonno. It was supposed to be a visit just to see what America was like. My father lived with Sebastiano and Rosina (your nonna) for what turned out to be three years. He worked in your nonno’s bar, he was there when your father’s brother, Anthony, died in that awful accident. My father had lost his only son in 1955 at the tender age of 5, so he knew intimately what they were going through. My father came back to Italy once in those three years, he tried to convince my mother to move the family to America. My mother resisted for three years and then gave in. Why am I telling this? Because I don’t think many people understand just how difficult it is for one to leave his native land and move to a completely alien land. You hear about how people come to America, you know, with $10 dollars in their pockets and how they made their way forward through hard work and sacrifices. All of that is true, but you seldom hear about the agonizing turmoil of making that decision to uproot yourself from your home land. It’s physically painful. The sacrifices are enormous. And yet, those people never complained. They came here for a better life, better opportunities, better future for their children. Maybe there was a belief or hope that someday they could go back to their home land – but they “fell in love” with America. They became proud to be Americans. In my father’s case, the big attraction was the quality of health care here. The hospitals here were very different than what we experienced in Italy. My mom was sick a lot, at one time she had to go to the hospital in Rome (a 10-hour train ride from our hometown), and she stayed in that hospital for an entire month. She did not begin to get better until we came here and she was able to receive some “real” health care. The rest of our story is typical of what you always hear. My dad, as I said, worked in your grandfather’s bar at first, then he got a job at RPI as a janitor. He was making $40 a week at the beginning, and later went “all the way up” to $60 a week. He was very proud of his job, he worked hard, he was happy to be able to provide for his family, and he was reward by being promoted to superintendent. My little mom actually learned to ride the bus to go to work at one of the shirt factories in North Troy – yes, she took the wrong bus sometimes, but it did not deter her. None of us knew how to speak English, and there was no such thing as English as a second language program. We literally just picked it up! Anyway, I did not mean to get carried away with this post. The end story is that all three of us daughters made it through college, two of us went to graduate school and are teachers, I have always upted for the secretarial jobs. It was family that helped us, the government did not help us nor did we ever expect it to. My dad’s job gave him the health insurance he needed and that was it. We girls always had part-time jobs, my parents were very big on putting any money you made in a savings account “for the future”, and to pay for everything you bought, they did not believe in getting loans or spending above our means (those lay-away plans sure came in handy!) We made it to this point on our own, through hard work, thrift living, saving what we could, being true to ourselves and our beliefs, and helping those friends and family who emigrated after us. I like to think that my parents enriched and continue to enrich the lives of everyone they come in contact with; my friends never tired of praising my mom’s cooking, my dad’s wine; we always had a vegetable garden, and everything was always cooked from scratch. My parents were very big on sharing, having friends and family over (that’s what Sunday afternoons were all about), being a big part of their Church. I am proud of the way you are raising your family, Joe, it’s not easy in this present age to raise a family in what we consider a “traditional” way, to pass on the values, ethics, and morals we know will continue to make this country great. And that’s all any of us, immigrants and sons and daughters of immigrants, and grandkids of immigrants, ever wanted and want – to keep this country great and each of us self-sufficient!
Thanks for this AMAZING comment to this post. I knew bits and pieces of your parents’ stories but love the fact that you could present it here the way you did. They are such wonderful people and I am lucky to be a member of their family. I’ll always remember having espresso with your dad at my Nonna’s table at 14th Street, chatting with him for a couple of hours about everything. We are so blessed to have been surrounded by such inspiring family members for our entire lives. Thanks again for sharing this comment and for reading. Feedback like this is what keeps me writing!