What does it mean to be an American? See responses from our staff who grew up in another country and came to the US as an adult. All of them are proud naturalized U.S. citizens.
I grew up in Pakistan, watching American movies (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark), TV shows (Bionic Woman), reading comics (Archie) and hoping that some day I will get to own a pair of Levi's denim jeans. So when I emigrated in 1984 as a teenager, I was ecstatic to buy a pair of blue denim jeans from Marshal Field's in Chicago (State Street store). My first impressions of living in America include how Coca Cola tasted so different, how big the fruits like bananas and strawberries were, the strange weather vocabulary that changed daily - windy, frosty, gusty. Like my colleagues, I also cherish the freedom, opportunity and equality. But what I identify with being American the most is its diversity and inclusivity. That's what makes the United States a great country.
Staff from Vietnam:
Every time someone asks me, how it feels like to be an American citizen, I change from quiet to talkative. I speak about the freedom, justice and opportunity of America that I never had when I was in my home country. I love American education the most. To me and my family, the American education system is one of the best in the world. It has helped me fulfill the dreams that I could not in my own country.
Staff from Russia:
A few years ago I came to America on a Library of Congress exchange program called "Open World" where leaders of Russian librarianship were invited. As a participant, I discovered a door to the high-tech American libraries in Houston. Now I am a part of this process, so necessary to our society. I use my skills and experience to serve our diverse population effectively.
Staff from Nigeria:
To me, being an American means being free to pursue your dreams and goals without being judged. It involves being treated equally no matter your skin color, culture, race, religion, accent or where you are from. It means ability to seek happiness in a just society which has little or no tolerance for corruption, unlike many countries where bribery and corruption is prevalent. Above all, it means appreciating yourself and just being you!
Staff from India
Being American means being able to do anything at any age. There are no restrictions as to what I should wear at a certain age, or when I can go back to school to study.
The first thing I noticed about America was how clean and orderly everything was. People would always stand in queue ( I would learn the word “line” later) and would always be polite.
I was happy to come to the world’s most famous democracy from the world’s most populous democracy. I was just a political observer in India and I continued to be the same here. I did learn much about the political system and words like electoral college, popular vote and hanging chad.
Staff from Chile:
It was forty years ago that I arrived in the United States, a wide-eyed college freshman living my first adventure away from home. 1976 was not only the Bicentennial year, but also an election year. I had missed the 4th of July celebrations but was just in time to observe the democratic process in full swing. This held a particular poignancy for me, as 3 years earlier in my native Chile I had lived through a military coup and the first years of what was going to become a pervasive dictatorship that lasted 17 years. In 1976, I was going to be old enough to vote in my first elections in Chile, of course that was not meant to happen, but I considered myself fortunate to at least vicariously experience the election process in the United States. On Tuesday, November 2, 1976, I proudly donned an “I voted” button, even though I hadn’t voted because I couldn’t, but it was my quiet way of supporting those who had and of stressing the importance of participating.
Saima K., Librarian at HPL