I never had the chance to hear my grandpop’s deepest thoughts about his extraordinary journey and rich, long life, which ended when I was fairly young. But one way I can understand his character, and the character of my country, is to reflect on the question, “What is an American?”
An American is anyone who loves life enough to want the best that it has to offer. Americans are not automatically satisfied with their current situation. My grandpop wanted to be more than a poor, landless tenant farmer, no better off than his ancestors. Americans look to more than the next meal; they look to the future, the long term, a better tomorrow.
An American is anyone who understands that to achieve the best in life requires action, exertion, effort. Americans aren’t idle daydreamers; they take the initiative. Fortune did not fall into my grandpop’s hands. He had traveled to America several times before 1930 to find work, establish himself, and make it possible to bring over the family. He toiled for years to achieve his dream, but achieve it he did.
An American is anyone who understands the need to use one’s mind and wits to meet life’s challenges. How would grandpop secure the money necessary for his first trip to America? Where would he find a job and a place to stay? You don’t need college to know that you have to use your brain as well as your brawn to make your way in America.