What does it mean to be an American? To me it means everything. What it means goes beyond my place of birth. For me it goes back to when millions of Irish people, Italians, and Eastern Europeans crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a better life.
My mother’s parents were refugees who came to this country from Russia. They fled religious persecution as the pogroms claimed the lives of their families. They made a good life for themselves in the safety of Coney Island, owning a dry goods store. They never talked about the old country: only about how lucky they were in America, the land of freedom.
My father’s father left his family in Romania as a young adult, because they were poor. Once in America, he pursued his dream, became a chef and made a future for himself. My father’s mom was born in Palestine. She was the oldest of ten children and was sent to America to find opportunity and a better life. She often talked of her pride in living in America and loved to sing the song, “America the Beautiful.” My grandparents felt lucky, blessed, and safe to raise their children in the freedom of this beautiful country.
My father worked in the space industry and was a pioneer in his field. His name is proudly displayed on the wall of honor at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. His experience in this field propelled us as a family toward national pride. My family began a tradition of vacationing to historic places in our country, mainly Revolutionary and Civil War sites. I can remember singing the Peter, Paul, and Mary tune, “This Land Is Your Land,” during our car rides.
As my own family grew, my son achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. At his ceremony we were joined by local officials. It gave me such a sense of pride knowing what my family had achieved in this country. It was important that my children travel throughout America as a way to experience the history of their country.
As an adult I have been drawn to the American West. I felt a sense of emotion at the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado and realized that the song, “America the Beautiful,” the song my grandma loved so much, was written there. The awe and beauty of standing in the shadow of the Grand Canyon brought me to tears. Seeing past presidents carved into Mt Rushmore was truly magical. Meeting a Navajo spiritual guide to tour Monument Valley gave me a deeper connection to this land. Then there were Bryce, Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and The Grand Tetons, just to name a few of the many amazing parks I visited, further increasing my love of America.
Luck brought my grandparents to this great land, giving my parents, myself and the future generations of my family unparalleled opportunity, and I pass down my unwavering love of America to my grandchildren.
Teri Dreyfuss-Gray joined OLLI in the spring of 2020 after retiring from 15 years in nursing home admissions. She enjoys classes on history and particularly liked Women Inventors. She enjoys meeting new people, and her passion is traveling in the United States.
8 Replies to “America the Beautiful: My Personal Story”
Thanks for sharing your poignant story. Several similarities to my family. This country isn’t perfect. Neither is my family. Still, reading this made me swell with pride and gratitude for both.
Hello Teri, what a beautiful tribute to this country you have offered us! I’m an European immigrant and bless every day of my life for being able to live here. The persecutions in Eastern and central Europe have ended, but new extreme, nationalistic governments are creeping in.
Wow Teri! What a testimonial. My parents were first generation Americans after my grandparents left Germany for a better life. My mother told me many times that “there is no place better in the world to live”–and she was/is right. We just have to keep our eye on the ball so that the likes of January 6th never, ever happens again.
What a wonderful personal history detailing all the aspects that makes America such a unique country! How blessed we are to be living here.
Thank you Teri. I wish every child in the country could feel the same way. The more they hear American pride from their elders, the better they will understand.
I am so proud to read your story! Thanks for sharing! I have always loved hearing about your adventures. It is a pleasure, especially during these crazy times of separation in America, to hear someone proudly say I love America! I am also proud to say you are my friend.
Thanks … I am ” Made in the USA ” …first generation.
Yes we have a beautiful country and I have been blessed to have seen almost all of the landscapes from the air…
It’s also a great county and it’s a real challenge to live up to all its’ potential…
Truly enjoyed your story