What 4th of July Means to Me

Statue of Liberty 125th Anniversary Fireworks

Statue of Liberty 125th Anniversary Fireworks (Photo credit: FreeVerse Photography)

To many the 4th of July means fireworks, a day off from work, or BBQ and fireworks, or celebrating the birthday of the United States of America.  But for me it symbolizes the struggles, hopes, aspirations, and opportunities my family experiences when coming to this nation from China a little over a century ago and living and struggling to establish themselves in this new and foriegn land.

My father came to this country around the turn of the Twentieth Century from one of the poorest regions in southern China.  His uncle brought him here as his son due to restrictions from the Chinese Exclusion Act only allowing a man to bring his son to the United States.  His parents likely saved up and paid his uncle to bring him to this country in the hopes that he would have a better life here than living as a peasant farmer in China.  Like tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants he spent about three weeks in quarantine at Angle Island.  He never lived in a family setting since he arrived here at the age of nine.  He was left at a laundry mat owned by some distant relatives and slept on the ironing board during the evening and ironing cloths during the day.  Later he became a house boy for some wealthy family and worked at many other jobs as he grew into adulthood.  He never liked working for others and thought he could be more successful having his own business but never succeeded in becoming rich or very successful.  But he did have dreams and aspirations and worked very hard.

He encountered many social and legal roadblocks as did many early migrants from China and South East Asia.  There were various versions of the Chinese Exclusion act and racial discrimination that limited his ability to do business especially in the earlier half of the century.  During World War II thing improved as the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed allowing him more legal rights but there was still much racial discrimination and Asians were still considered second class citizens.

My life in this nation was much easier.  Unlike my father I was born in this country and grew up with my family until I went to college and later hired by a very good high-tech company.  Though I faced my own struggles they were never as difficult as what my father experienced.  I did encounter some racial discrimination earlier in life but not to the degree that my father had to endure.  I was also able to have dreams and aspirations like my father but did succeed in achieving many of them.

So in spite of the struggles my father and I had experienced in this country we had far more to be thankful for.  My father was far more successful and had dreams and aspirations that he would not have had if his parents not saved up and sent him to America.  I could have been born in China and been a poor peasant farmer all my life instead of living in this country, getting a good education and great high-tech job, and realizing many of my dreams.

This country has indeed provided me with many great opportunities to become successful.  4th of July symbolizes to me the opportunities and ability of my family to seek and achieve happiness in spite of occasional adversities.  Struggle has often made me a better and stronger person as I’m sure it did my father and others.

Though I complain a lot about my country I do so because I want it to become an even better nation for my children and their children.  When I see social injustice I have flashbacks of discrimination I suffered and witnessed throughout life.  In spite of all that this country has given me there is still room for improvement.  It is because I am so appreciative of all that this country has offered me that I am involved as a citizen to make this an even better nation for future generations.  I believe that my father and I contributed in our small ways to help make this a great nation as did millions of other citizens and immigrants.  I realize how lucky I am to live in a country of such great opportunities which I have grown to appreciate and love.

Happy Birthday America and Happy 4th of July everyone!!

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