From the Promised Land to the Land of Opportunity

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This next reader, Shelly, immigrated to the U.S. from Israel in the late ‘50s:

I came to this country with my family when I was five years old. We actually landed on my 5th birthday off a big ocean liner which sailed from the U.K., where we’d visited relatives and toured London. We came from Israel—a country only a decade old at the time—to help with some of my health issues and so that my father could find better business opportunities. My grandmother, aunt, uncle and their families were already in the U.S. I remember that day as my grandmother met us and brought me my first really beautiful doll.

My parents had been refugees from Nazi Europe in 1938. They met in pre-Israel Palestine and were filled with hope when they came to America.

At age 11, I was naturalized, along with my parents. I don’t remember much about the ceremony, but over the years, being a “hyphenated” American has kept me thinking about the responsibility of being a good citizen. It has made me sensitive to the fact that so many countries do not promise the rights our country does, that many people died to obtain and retain these rights, and that we have a role to play in preserving them.

My parents were able to build a good middle-class lifestyle for us in America. I attended public schools, earned a scholarship to an Ivy League university, and had a very successful business career.

More recently, I was inspired by Hillary Clinton to become active politically.  I worked on both her campaigns, and I was a leader in this last campaign in mobilizing thousands of people and raising lots of money to support her—the most qualified presidential candidate of our generation. It is no surprise that she won three million more votes than her opponent but shocking to think that she lost the election due to just 80 thousand votes in swing states.

It won’t surprise you to hear that while I will always stay optimistic about America, I am hugely disappointed in the voters who chose such an unqualified candidate to “shake things up” and brought about this outcome, which will have repercussions for generations to come, including many negative ones for his own voters. I thought Americans were smarter than that.