I grew up in a modest home. I was the product of teen-aged parents who were estranged when I was a baby, and permanently divorced by the time I was three. There were years when I qualified for free school lunches, but I refused to apply. The prospects were bleak at times, but I always believed that if I put in the effort, made sacrifices, and did my work, that I could advance and succeed. I have lived through days of digging change out from behind the sofa cushions, putting myself through college painting houses, and driving beat up cars held together by twisted clothes hangers. Today, I live the American dream. I have a great job, a beautiful home and a wonderful family; everything I lived through to get here was worth it. I never spent a moment waiting around for a level playing field or a fair deal.
When I was in high school, I met an Iranian guy my age. This was during the time when people from the middle-east were commonly called "Camel Jockey" and worse. We became friends, and I learned a little about his life. His father had been a military General officer under the government of the Shah of Iran. When the Shah was deposed, my friend and his mother had to flee the country for safety. Soon after arriving here, as a Junior in High School, he bought a used compact car, and began mowing yards with a lawn mower and other equipment he carried in the trunk of the car. Over a period of a few years, he expanded his landscaping business by offering home builders the opportunity to pay him when the houses sold, rather than upon completion of the work. He expanded further with crews in landscaping, bricklaying and other areas of construction. Today, he is a multi-millionaire, and he spent not one moment crying about epithets or waiting around for a level playing field or a fair deal.
My cute little wife was born in Korea in 1966. Her mother brought her to this country when she was 5 years old. This fine woman also brought along five sisters, two brothers, and her own mother. My wife, her mother and her aunts and uncle are first generation immigrants to this country. Each of them has worked hard in school, in work and in life, and to raise a family here. Along the way, there were sacrifices. Frequently they lived modestly, often harvesting food from the nearby Pacific ocean, and making good choices in an effort to get ahead. My wife even sold her car to finance her final year of college. Today, the second generation of this extended family includes several college graduates, and all the kids excel in school. Several among them own multiple homes. This family has achieved enormous success in this land of opportunity, and not one of them has wasted a moment waiting for a free meal, a level playing field or a fair deal handed down from Washington.
I work with immigrants from China, Pakistan, India, and Africa. I hear them talk, sometimes in lamentation, about how their school aged children are already becoming Americans, in one generation. I see these people come to work every day, overcome language barriers, and compete with a work ethic unsurpassed in the job market. I see their children mirroring their ethic in their school work. These people are not sitting idly by pining for their ancestral home awaiting a level playing field or a fair deal.
In what must have been a rare moment of clarity for a Democrat, John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your country!" Amen Brother! None of the people I have described sat around waiting for the government of this country to deliver a level playing field or a fair deal. Instead, each answered the question of what he or she could do. Each found the answer in education, hard work and sacrifice and made themselves into productive citizens. Each of them made more opportunities with good choices, and raising children with the same values. Life in the US offers us opportunities, not success and happiness on a silver platter. It is a simple formula: get an education, get a job, work hard, sacrifice, and stop waiting around for a living wage, reparations, food stamps, free health care, affirmative action and free lunches. Government programs do not create success. Success happens one person at a time, by a lifetime of work, sacrifice, good choices, and an attitude of self-reliance. I don't trust anyone in Washington to spend more of my tax dollars on programs of any kind, and I am never going to wait around for a level playing field or a fair deal. I hope you don't either. However, if you are a person waiting around for a level playing field, be advised there are people coming from all over the world, making themselves useful, and making a life from the opportunities you are missing while you wait.