I’m not going to lie. I’m a big fan of the U.S. No matter where I travel in the world or how much I love it, America will always be my home and the place that I hold most dear in my heart.
I love our flag. I love our holidays. I love our system of government (even with its many flaws). I love college football, apple pie, and all that is quintessential America. I love to rock out to Born in the U.S.A. and get a knot in my throat when I hear I’m Proud to be an American. And, if it’s the right occasion, I’m even a fan of the USA chant.
I know that America isn’t perfect. I know that we’ve made mistakes. And, unfortunately, I think that the not-so-great reputation the U.S. sometimes has around the world, may be (at times), deserved. But, at the end of the day, there is nowhere else I would rather be from that the U.S.
Not long ago, I was in the car in Amman, Jordan, where I’m currently living, with a couple of co-workers. We were laughing as we were being followed by a Jordanian guy who was intrigued by my blonde hair. Somehow, this led to us talking about America, and what it’s like as I really couldn’t imagine this scenario happening in the U.S. I was explaining that (for the most part) it doesn’t matter what you look like – blonde hair, head covered, purple hair, no hair, etc. – that anyone can look American. And, really, anyone can be American.
We are a nation of immigrants. Almost all of us are originally from somewhere else. And, unlike almost anywhere in the world, when you are given U.S. residency, you immediately become an American.
If you are a Syrian refugee who has been languishing in a refugee camp in the Middle East for years and are selected for resettlement to America, when you get off that plane in the U.S. to start your new life, you are an American. There is not a probationary period. You don’t have to dress in red, white, and blue; write in perfect English prose; or be able to list all 50 states. When you arrive with that U.S. passport in your hand, you are home. It doesn’t matter where you came from. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter if you had a troubled past or perfect life. When you’re here, you are one of us — American. And, no matter what you hear in the world today, this is where America is strong, not weak.
America welcomes the those who are changing the world. We welcome brightest and most creative minds. We welcome those who yearn to be a part of the American dream. And, we also welcome the tired. We welcome the poor. We welcome the huddled masses yearning to breathe free because this is who we are. We are America. We are a city on a hill. And, there is nowhere in the world quite like us.
One of my favorite feelings in the world is arriving back to the U.S. after weeks or months away. I walk into the airport and smell that “American air,” as I say. As I stand in line to go through immigration, I can’t help but to feel a bit of pride as the somewhat corny video of multicultural people saying “welcome” along with scenes from around the country flash across the screen. And, no matter how long I’ve been away, there is nothing like hearing, “welcome home,” as you exit immigration.
No matter how much my country drives me crazy. No matter how much I worry about its future. I am proud to be an American.
For better or worse, America is us. We are many colors. We are many faiths. Sometimes it seems that we are more different than alike. But, this is what makes us great.
We don’t need to make America great again because it is already great. Just look at your neighbor. Just look at the refugees arriving to our country and living without fear for the first time in years. Just look at the young soldier who has sacrificed for our country. Just look at our teachers, police officers, elected officials, and other public servants who work to make our country better. Just look at our entrepreneurs, small business owners, and inventors who are building a life for themselves and brightening our country’s future.
We are not perfect. We are a flawed people. But, together, we are America. And, we are great. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
Happy Birthday, America!