The picture attached to this blog post is of three of my grandparents.
The woman on the left is my father’s mother, Katina; the gentleman is my mother’s father, George; the other woman is Mom’s mother, Diamondoula. I don’t know who snapped this photo; perhaps it was Dad’s father, John.
What do they have in common? For starters, they were immigrants. They came to this country from southeastern Europe. Dad’s parents came from southern Greece, while Mom’s parents came here from Turkey. They all were Greeks and proud of their heritage.
They had something else in common. They all loved the United States of America.
I want to honor them today to remind you about an immutable fact of this country: The U.S. of A. was built by immigrants. Whether they came her voluntarily, as my grandparents did, or were rounded up and transported here aboard slave ships, they all built this nation.
My grandparents were the proudest Americans you ever would want to know.
Dad’s parents brought seven children into the world, four of whom served in the military. Dad served in the Navy during World War II; one of his brothers fought for the Army during the Korean War, while his other brother saw Army duty in Europe between the Korean and Vietnam wars; one of his sisters served in the Navy. Mom’s parents produced three children; her two brothers both served in the military; one of them fought with Army Air Corps during World War II; the other served as an Army reserve colonel.
I want to salute my grandparents because they were Americans by choice. They forged a good life in this land. They honored the nation by flying the flag proudly. My maternal grandmother adored Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy, keeping pictures of JFK in her home.
The current political discourse contains an unhealthy dose of anti-immigrant dogma. One of the president’s closest advisers is known to be anti-immigrant and has infused the president with the notion that we need a “merit-based” immigration policy that allows only those identified as potential high achievers into the country. Under that policy, none of my grandparents would have qualified … and the United States would have been made immeasurably poorer by their exclusion.
This weekend we’re going to honor the founding of this nation. We’ll celebrate it under a cloud brought to us by the pandemic. Still, we will honor our founders’ genius in crafting the framework that put together the world’s most indispensable nation.
I intend to honor — and recall with great fondness — the contributions that my grandparents made after arriving here from far away places.
They became the greatest of Americans … and played a major role in making America great.