by Ia Beridze
…It was a hot summer evening in 2006. The pregnant young woman with her 5 year old son had been standing in line in one of the stores in Philadelphia. Behind her was a young woman with a little girl. The young boy was playing with the young girl, and they both were laughing.
Suddenly, the little boy disappeared. His pregnant mom was forced to step out from the line. After a minute, she saw the happy boy, brought him back and asked him in a foreign language to be quiet and nice. Unexpectedly, the young lady who was standing next to the pregnant women rudely said, “Ma’am, you left your spot, so take a spot from the end.” The pregnant woman was surprised that somebody talks to her. She didn’t understand what the young lady was talking about. The pregnant lady simply said-“I am sorry. I do not speak English.”
The angry lady got more authoritative and repeated her demand more strongly. The pregnant woman was embarrassed with her situation and most of all for not been able to speak the English language. She was ready to cry…But the young woman did not want to stop the argument. “Ma’am you should go back!’- She continued screaming with more anger in her voice and signaled with her short and stout finger way to the end of the line. “I am tired with a lot of stupid people around me. I can‘t stand such stupidity and damn people. They can‘t say word in English. Why should I suffer look at them? I am American, and why do not I have a chance to live with regular Americans like me? O, My God!!!”
The pregnant lady was quiet and her eyes were full of tears. The kids stopped playing and with big opened eyes tried to understand why their moms did not “love” each other. This pregnant lady was not an American. This woman was me, a new immigrant from Georgia.
Did you ever wonder what it meant to be an American? In my opinion, an American was an individual who first able loved America, and the people in it, who respected the US for the freedom of religion, speech and press, who is proud Americas history and remember that this is a country of immigrants.
America is a country of immigrants! I am a new immigrant and I can say with proud-This is my country today. What gives me power to say this behind all of you? I will give you three main reasons.
So, I ask again, who is an American?
The first, I believe Americans should know history of this country and be proud with them. Americans need to look at past sometimes. For example, look at your family. Did you ever have a chance to hear your family’s story? Your parents or your grand pop’s story of their immigration? It helps you the better understand me, and the other new immigrants around you . It helps you understand America’s character. Is this problem if I decided to change my kids’ future today and your ancestors made this decision 100 year ago?
Another point to ponder is that “the United States had always been energizes by its immigrant population”-as President Bill Clinton said in 1998. Are you disappointed with this idea? Could you really imagine America without immigrants? I can’t. As I can’t imagine some other country in our world can be country of dreams. No other country on the world like America.
The third reason what gives me rights to fight been an American is that I am working hard for this. I am looking for one day when I can prove my word. I believe one day that pregnant woman who was ready to cry, in beginning of my speech will become more American than that lady who maybe was born in here 35 years ago.
Finally, I would like to say one more time with proud-Yes, I am a new immigrant, but I am an American. I believe the principles of this country are no mere abstractions; they are written in the hearts of all true Americans. And it is the spirit of America, the spirit of your grandfathers, the spirit of mine. America is yours and America is mine.