I am proud to be an American.|
I was born in Silvis and have lived in the Quad-Cities my whole life. I cherish the greatness of our country and the men and women who fight daily for the freedoms some of us may sometimes take for granted.
I believe in the American Dream and have faith in the idea that if you work hard enough, anything is possible. I love the spirit of our nation and the fact that we are indeed a melting pot of people from all over the world. To me, this is what makes our country so powerful and yet tolerant enough to embrace the diversity of our people.
The Dispatch and Rock Island Argus recently published a series called "Q-C Melting Pot," which highlights stories from new immigrants arriving to our area and those whose families have been in the Quad-Cities for generations.
These stories are not just interesting, they reinforce the belief that despite your race, origin or culture you are able to attain a significant quality of life in the United States for you and your family. These stories are courageous, heart-warming and inspiring.
They remind me of the stories of my own family and I imagine most of yours; every family has a story. It is these stories of hard work and triumph that contribute to the person you become. This, to me, is one of the most important aspects of being an American.
In recent times, I've heard people complain that if you're American, you're American; why does there have to be any mention about where you're ancestors are from? And in some ways, I agree.
I have never been one for labels. I don't meet people and say, "Hi, my name is Jessica and I am Mexican-American." It is not something that I feel I need to flaunt in anyone's face, nor do I feel as though I am more Mexican than American. After all, my ancestors came to this area in the early 1920s and worked the Rock Island railroads.
As a fifth-generation Mexican-American, I grew up in an English-speaking household. It wasn't because my parents objected to us speaking Spanish but only because they were never taught themselves. They, too, grew up in an English-speaking home. And yet despite all of this, I still feel that just because you are proud of where you and/or your ancestors come from does not make you anti-American.
Marcus Garvey, a notable civil rights activist once said, "A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." Our roots are the foundation of who we are as people.
Does denying this part of our history or losing our sense of pride in the cultural traditions we hold dear as an individual and as a family make us a better Americans? I would argue not. I happen to believe what makes our great nation so strong are the differences as well as the similarities that we share as a people.
I encourage each of us to reconsider what we believe to be American pride. If your neighbor takes pride in speaking their native tongue as well as English, don't judge them.
If your co-worker brings in a traditional food dish on a holiday we don't celebrate as Americans, don't find reasons to ridicule, embrace it. If you see someone at the store dressed in traditional garments from another country, resist the urge to consider them foreigners; try to consider them proud Americans.
This country works best when we all work together despite our differences. Just because someone is proud of who they are or where their ancestors came from does not mean that they are minimizing the importance of being an American.
I am proud of the history of my family and the traditions that my family brought with them to this country. I am also proud to be an American and hold dear the freedom and opportunities that have graced me throughout my life Is it possible for us to embrace both? I believe it's called the American Dream.
Jessica Ramos-Rodriguez, Rock Island, is a graduate of Western Illinois University.
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