I am a Kenyan immigrant who has lived in America for more than half my life since 1981 and I will say without equivocation that I have lived my version of the American Dream during that time. From the dry and dusty village of Apondo in Nyanza, I have rubbed shoulders with the best and brightest, not only from the United States, but the entire world here in Silicon Valley. I jog by the Facebook campus on Willow Road in Menlo Park every other day during my lunch time runâ€¦and have an open invitation to the famed Google Cafeteria in Mountain View. I recently got an offer to buy an Apple product at any Apple Store using a friendâ€™s company discount and two weeks ago, I had a casual sit-down with one of Forbes Africa â€œ20 most influential women under 40â€ in downtown Palo Alto as she was visiting her alma mater and former employer close to where I work.
Note: The American Dream varies from person to person but is defined by Wikipedia as:
â€¦a national ethos of the United States; a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. In the definition of the American Dream by James T. Adams writes that life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.
Before I get a rush of hate-mail, let me clarify that the foregoing examples are not to brag; but to highlight my familiarity with the famed Bay (San Francisco) Area and my larger point re: my American Dream and the fact that anything is possible here in America regardless of who you are, what you are â€“ black, white, brown, yellow â€“ or who you know etc. Yes the last name Bush, Kennedy, or Rockefeller may open doors for a job applicant just as the last name Kenyatta, Moi, Oginga, Biwott would. However, the one difference between Kenya and America re: having the right last name is that it, right name, may get you in the door. It may even get you the job, but sooner or later, you are going to have to stand on your own i.e. prove our competence without asking the question unajua mimi ni nani? or do you know who I am?â€ Something I donâ€™t recall in Kenya where the right name, according to Mr. George Mathu of University of Nairobiâ€™s Department of Anthropology, not only appeased the ancestral spirits, but was also the ticket to personal wealth and the good life in Kenya!
Exhibit A for what is possible in America is the current occupant of the White House and arguably the most powerful man in the world; not to mention his wifeâ€¦descendants of slaves! One wonders whether a Kenyan with the last name â€œObamaâ€ and his pedigree (or lack thereof) could have grown up to become the president of Kenya.
Has the journey towards my American Dream been easy? Absolutely not! But the one thing America has given me, and continues to give me, is the unmatched feeling that anything is possible with the combination of hard work, dedication and luckâ€¦regardless of my race and yes, regardless of my TRIBE as well!
Does the US have its short-comings? Without a doubt! This country has an ugly past; not to mention a culture rooted in violence courtesy of the pervasiveness of guns. America has so many distractions that anyone who is not aware of the possible pitfalls of said distractions focused and disciplined towards their goal can be derailed almost immediately. Distractions include the near-sense of entitlement that Americans seem to have about attaining their dream. America is the land of opportunities but said opportunities require immense sacrifice and hard work, not to mention patience. It is also much harder for some groups â€“ minorities and women â€“ to attain their dreams than it is for others â€“ white male.
On the other hand, America is the land of 2nd chances and redemption. Those fleeing tragedies or persecution in their motherland have found solace and acceptance, not to mention safety, in these United States. The opening lines of the sonnet The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus captures the essence of America:
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free..
The final chapter of the book Wuodha: My journey from Kenya to these United States is a great read for foreigners looking to migrate to or already in the US.
By Washington Osiro