A recent headline caught my attention: “Why Americans Smile So Much.” I know why I smile a lot: as the son of immigrants, optimism runs in my DNA. It turns out that the reason our fellow Americans smile so much may have something to do with our identity as a nation of immigrants, too. Smiles can transcend a language barrier, so countries that are more diverse rely more on nonverbal communication. It’s how we welcome each other without speaking the same language, how we show kindness to strangers.
Indeed, since this country’s founding, immigrants have given us so many reasons to smile. They renew our fundamental belief that there’s something better in our future, and it’s within our reach if we work hard enough. So many risk everything in search of opportunity and come to our country with no agenda other than working hard and building a better life for their family. With each new generation of immigrants, the promise of our country is restored.
That promise is in the hearts of all those who come here — people like my parents. My mother Maria Teresa, from Guadalajara, Jalisco, México, was a clerical worker, and my father Manuel was a construction laborer who never made it past the sixth grade. But they sacrificed and worked hard and achieved the American Dream. They got to send their kids to college, own a home, and enjoy a dignified retirement. Their story isn’t just an immigrant story, it’s an American story.
It is critical to remember that America was literally built by immigrants, and my home state of California is no exception. Whether it’s the Googles of the world or the roads in Sacramento that were paved by Manuel Becerra, the contributions of immigrants are all around us. We are a stronger and more prosperous nation because we welcome them and give them a chance to share their gifts and talents with us.
I am blessed to go to work every day to safeguard the American values that brought my parents and so many others to this country. This month and every month, I stand with my family, I stand with all immigrants, I stand up for the American Dream… and I do it with a smile.