A question as I wait for the hot water to go back on in my New York City apartment and I ponder Election Day tomorrow: Can America continue to be a land of opportunity?
I was fortunate to immigrate to America as an infant at a time when America was very open to new comers of diverse soci-economic backgrounds. Like the Irish, Jewish, Italian and waves of other Americans before us, I am part of a first generation of new comers who got to live the American dream. My working class family was just like the present Asian and Middle Eastern groups that have since replaced us in the old neighborhood, posses the same work ethic; they work hard and live the American dream.
Like some inner city kids in my era, I was fortunate to stay alive, graduate college, luckier to go to graduate school and blessed to be able to live and work abroad in a variety of wonderful capacities as an expatriate American.
As I get ready to vote, I wonder if the opportunities I had will continue to become available to a diverse new group of ambitious new comers and to other hard working families. Since I have been back in America, it’s a bit perplexing that some of my old neighborhood buddies, a few of them are first generation like me, would not allow similar opportunities they received to the new generation of newcomers and present middle-class Americans.
This thought hits even harder as I look out at the post-Sandy Hurricane aftermath. As the cold sets in and the number of homeless increases, I know that there will be many who stretch out their arms to embrace those in need. Yet some of the same friends I grew up with and who until recently spoke vehemently against ‘big government’ now embrace the reality that there is only so much your neighbors and family can do for you in a major natural calamity. They are welcoming the outpouring of help and support, especially from the national government.
So as I get ready to vote, I think about the American dream. Like my parents I want the best for my kids. I intend to look for ways that both of them, who have lived all their young lives abroad – and their generation, can realize a new version and vision of that dream. In any small way, it is my intention to make America a land of opportunity for them and for their generation of ‘newcomers’. But as I look at my Sample Ballot for this Presidential election, I wonder: Will they live in an America that continues to be fair and just? Where a college education will be attainable and affordable? Will my daughter see an America that allows her to get equal pay for equal work after graduating? Will they live in an America that continues to look out for the weak as well as provide opportunities for the brave and the strong?
The hot water just came back on.
Photo: Orlando Camargo