28 Feb 2012

Comin to America

Comin To America


There’s nothing like an election year to bring out the patriot in all of us. From the Downeyflake, to the Fog Island Café and over to The Bean in Nantucket, to local coffee shops around the country, there are conversations taking place about the U.S constitution, our rights and freedoms as U.S. citizens and the State of the Nation in general. Patriotic holidays like Independence Day, Veteran’s Day and the recent President’s Day remind all of us to pause and consider how lucky we are to live in a land where we are free to speak our mind, to practice the religion of our choice and to vote for who and what we believe in. It’s no wonder that the United States attracts people from all over the globe in search of opportunity. Nantucket is no exception. Settler’s began arriving here in the early 1600’s and have been coming to the island ever since seeking employment, prosperity or a better way of life.

As I was walking along one of the quiet side streets in town the other day, I noted over a dozen American Flags proudly displayed on the fronts of the historic homes. It occurred to me that virtually everyone on Nantucket and in the nation in general arrived here from somewhere else. Our ancestors were all “wash-ashores” at some point. As a child I remember hearing the story of my great grandparents’ decision to leave Germany and set sail for the “land of opportunity.” They had small children, spoke no English and were unsure what they would do when they got to America…but they knew they wanted to come. My great-aunt Mary told the story of looking up at my great-grandmother as the boat pulled into New York harbor and seeing her weep as she spotted the Statue of Liberty. I’m certain there are dozens of similar stories of weeping grandmothers who pulled into the Nantucket Harbor knowing they had arrived in a place of great promise.

Recently, our Office Manager, Maya became a U.S. Citizen. She has the quintessential “Comin to America” story. She arrived in the United States almost 13 years ago as a young study abroad student from Belarus…and never left. She secured jobs in New Jersey and New York doing laundry, waiting tables and doing office work. A friend brought her to Nantucket where she got her green card, settled in, met Prince Charming ( a nice guy named Seth who is a teacher at the Nantucket Schools) and was hired as the Office Manager at our firm. She’s inspiring to watch. As a dedicated employee, she’s learned a great deal about Nantucket Real Estate. As she prepared for the Citizenship Exam, she became well versed in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In her “free time” she is obtaining her second college degree via online classes at a major university. This summer she’ll marry Prince Charming and we’re believing with her in their “happily ever after” story.

In the lead up to her citizenship interview and exam, our office team caught the Patriotic fever. At our annual Christmas Party, we all donned little American Flags and kicked off the party with hands over hearts reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in honor of Maya and the land we all love. A few days after her induction ceremony, which took place at historic Faneuil Hall in downtown Boston, we had a little patriotic “pre-game” event at our weekly office meeting – complete with Whitney Houston blaring the National Anthem on YouTube. The UPS man walked in just as it was reaching the pinnacle, dropped his packages, threw his right hand over his heart and stood at attention. “Patriotism is alive and well,” he exclaimed before darting out the door. Indeed.

Maya has reminded all of us that the American Dream is still attainable and her story is the beginning of a new legacy for the next generation. 40 years from now a bright eyed young man or woman may be reciting to a crowd of political followers “anything is possible in a land where the son (or daughter) of an immigrant from Belarus and a Nantucket School teacher can have the opportunity to…” Well… get the idea.

The next time you pull into the Nantucket Harbor, step out onto the deck of the ferry and pause for a moment to reflect on the many previous generations who arrived on this island for the first time. Consider their hopes, dreams, opportunities and the courage it took to take a chance on Nantucket and the United States in general. As we all journey together further into this political year, with differing views on almost everything, may we all agree to agree on one thing – we live in the greatest land of all.

God Bless America.

Shellie Dunlap


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