What does it take to be an American? I was reminded of this when I stayed overnight in downtown Phoenix. At breakfast, I was greeted by a vivacious young lady named Sara. The restaurant was almost empty so I had the opportunity to speak with Sara.
She was born in Iraq, before our invasion, to a Syrian Christian family. At the time, Iraqi Christians were protected by Saddam Hussein, yet they were considered second-class citizens as non-Muslims. The family decided to leave Iraq, traveled to Jordan, and immigrated to Sweden.
Sara loved living in Sweden but her family was not considered Swedish. In Sweden, as in most European countries, you are a full citizen only if all your grandparents were born in that county. Eventually, Sara moved to the U.S., first living in Texas and then Arizona. To be an American all she needed to do was learn English, and she speaks very well, and swear allegiance to the U.S. She is as much a citizen as I am, having been born in America. I must note that all my grandparents were born in locations that are now in Ukraine.
She is multilingual, speaking Arabic, Assyrian, Swedish and English, but English is her primary language since she is an American. This is what makes this country great, and we sometimes forget what is special about our nation. There are no racial, religious or ethnic restrictions on who can be an American.
As an aside, here are two stories I believe are appropriate for this column. An American student was traveling in East Germany in the 1970s and met a German who spoke excellent English. He asked where the person acquired his English ability and was told that the German had lived for two years in America, which were the best years of his life. When asked why he left the U.S., the man said that the war was over and as a POW he had to return to Germany.
In the 1990s, an older American approaches the customs desk at the Paris airport, and struggles to find his passport. When questioned by the customs agent, the American confirms that he has been to France before but did not need to show his passport then. The customs officer is incredulous and asks why he did not need his passport then. The American states that we he landed on Omaha Beach in June 1944, there was no French official asking to see his passport.
It would appear that there is no need to make America great again. Our country already is a great nation.
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