To empower & transform

Why I’m excited to become CEO of Clearpath

I am the son of Cuban immigrants who came to the U.S. in search of freedom, opportunity and the “American dream.”

For this reason, immigration has always been an issue I have been personally passionate about. My deep desire to help afford others this same opportunity is what drove me to serve in the White House under two American presidents. It is what led me to become a social entrepreneur — building businesses and organizations that seek to change the world.

And this is why I’m excited to become the CEO of Clearpath, a venture-backed tech company dedicated to empower immigrants.

I’m the son of Cuban immigrants to the U.S. in search of freedom, opportunity and the “American dream.”

In January 2013, I joined Clearpath after leaving the White House because I wanted to be a part of something transformative. At Clearpath, we seek to democratize the immigration process by making it easier, more affordable and secure for individual immigrants to file their own immigration applications. We were founded by a great team of immigration experts and technologists, including three of the former heads of the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service. For the last year, I have had the privilege to spearhead our business and partnership development efforts. From interacting with partners, stakeholders and actual users, I believe we are on the cutting-edge of truly revolutionizing the immigration process — similar to how TurboTax transformed tax filing.

We know firsthand that the immigration process isn’t just about paperwork — it’s about people’s lives.

We recognize that the process can be overly complicated and applicants are left in the dark about how it works — and this why we are seeking to demystify it. By leveraging our patented technology, we are helping empower immigrant applicants step by step through the process and giving them transparency into the system.

With immigration reform on the horizon, there is undoubtedly a great need and a tremendous opportunity to help millions of people attain their dreams. Along with our dedicated Clearpath team, I’m looking forward to the challenge of helping transform our immigration system and streamline the process … one applicant at a time.

Felice Gorordo is CEO of Clearpath, a venture-backed tech company revolutionizing the immigration process - just as TurboTax transformed tax filing.

twitter: @fgorordo
www.CaminoClaro.com
www.ClearpathImmigration.com

Next Story — Sacrificio y amor
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Sacrificio y amor

Lo que me enseño mi abuela con su ejemplo en el exilio

Esther Julia Diaz Rius de Valencia (1918–2016)

El elogio de mi abuela del 29 de marzo de 2016 en la Iglesia de St. Raymond.

De parte de mi abuelo Paquito y nuestra familia entera, quiero darles las gracias a todos nuestros seres queridos que se han reunido hoy para recordar la memoria de mi querida abuela Esther Julia Valencia.

Mis dos madres — mi mama y mi abuela (Miami, 1983).

Les confieso que este no es un día fácil para nuestra familia por muchas razones. Hoy, hace cuatro meses que perdimos a mi madre. De cierta forma, me siento como que he perdido dos madres en muy poco tiempo. Una vivió a cumplir cincuenta y pico — y la otra casi doble. Sin embargo, las extraño a ambas como loco. Pero siento algún alivio sabiendo que las dos están descansando en paz y en muy buena compañía — juntas en la gloria del Señor.

Conocida en nuestra casa como Abi, Esther era un alma muy especial. No solo era mi abuela, sino también mi querida maestra de arte, historia, y baile. Creo que hablo por mis hermanas cuando digo que Abi nos enseñó a pintar antes de escribir y a bailar antes de caminar.

Nuestra querida familia frente la casa de mis abuelos (Miami 1983).

Cuando éramos niños, nos encantaba ir a su casa para festejar en su sala con la música de sus antiguos discos y casetes. Cada visita incluía una lección de pintura y dibujo — y dulces a escondidas de nuestros padres. Allí fue donde desarrollé mi amor por el arte clásico, la música del son, y los pastelitos de guayaba.

Comiendome los cachetes de mi abuela en Halloween (Miami 1983).

Nacida en la provincia de Las Villas, Abi tenía una gran pasión por su querida Cuba. Como descendiente del Padre de la Patria — Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, nos dio clases de historia cubana desde nuestra niñez y sembró en nosotros un gran orgullo por nuestras raíces. A los cinco años, tuve que memorizarme el himno cubano y los inolvidables Versos Sencillos del apóstol José Martí. Y fue a través de ella que nació mi devoción a la Virgencita de la Caridad del Cobre — nuestra querida patrona, Cachita.

El pulso que me dio mi abuela como recordatorio de la Virgencita de la Caridad del Cobre.

La vida de Abi no fue fácil — fue una vida de sacrificio pero siempre llena de mucha alegría y mucho amor. Durante su niñez, su padre Papaíto administraba un ingenio de azúcar donde nacieron Abi, sus cuatro hermanas y un hermano. Cuando se enfermó Papaíto, la familia se mudó a la ciudad de Sancti Spíritus en busca de más oportunidades. Desde allí, se mudaron de nuevo a La Habana para ofrecerles a los niños una mejor educación.

Mi abuela con sus hermanas Argelia, Minina, Maria, Zeida, su hermano Manolo y madre Mamaita.

Con tremendo talento artístico, tuvo la gran oportunidad de estudiar en la Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes de San Alejandro. Después de graduarse, Abi se dedicó de noche a su amor por el arte como pintora — y de día, a su amor por la educación y los niños como maestra de primaria.

A los 29 años, una amiga la invito a una fiesta del 31 de diciembre organizada por un joven llamado Francisco “Paquito” Valencia. Fue en esa época que mi abuelo Paquito alcanzó su fama como gran organizador de fiestas. Creo que sus colegas del banco estarían de acuerdo conmigo.

La boda de mis abuelos (Cuba 1952)

Después de un romance que duró casi cinco años, la pareja se casó en 1952. Aunque no tuvieron hijos ellos mismo, adoptaron a mi padre Pancho después que falleció su madre Argelia — hermana de Esther. Criaron a mi padre con mucha ternura, como si fuera su propio hijo y le enseñaron lo que significa el amor incondicional.

En 1962, después de que la revolución cubana se declaró comunista, mis abuelos se exiliaron a los Estados Unidos en busca de libertad y oportunidad. Abi empezó trabajando en el campo recogiendo fresas en Homestead. Desde allí, pasó a trabajar en una factoría de ropa en Hialeah por casi 20 años hasta que se jubiló y se dedicó a criarnos.

Mis hermanas y yo con mi abuela (Miami 1991).

Lo que es casi incomprensible para mí y mis hermanas, es como ella pudo sacrificar sus sueños para que su futura familia tuviera una vida mejor. La ironía es que estudió para trabajar con sus manos — pintando y dibujando como solo ella podía. Sin embargo, terminó trabajando con sus manos — en el campo y la factoría para que sus nietos adoptados pudieran realizar sus propios sueños americanos en su patria adoptada de los EE.UU.

Por el sacrificio de mis abuelos, pudimos realizar nuestros sueños americanos —llegando hasta trabajar en la Casa Blanca por el Presidente de los EE.UU. (Washington 2012).

Por ese sacrificio, por ese amor incondicional y sin límites, le estaré siempre agradecido y me siento endeudado con ella y con mi abuelo. Sin ellos, no hubiéramos podido lograr lo que tenemos hoy en día. Es gracias a ellos que hemos podido realizar nuestros sueños — sin olvidarnos de nuestras raíces. Si no recordamos de dónde venimos, no sabremos adónde vamos — me decía.

Cuando llegó al exilio, siguió pintando y dibujando cada momento que tenía. Nuestras casas se han convertido en galerías permanentes con sus cuadros en las paredes como recordatorios de los paisajes que dejo en su querida islita.

Mi casa se ha convertido en galería permanente con los cuadros de mi abuela como recordatorios de los paisajes que dejo en su querida islita.

Después de jubilarse, se dedicó de nuevo a hacer vestidos, pero esta vez, para mis hermanas. Ellas eran sus muñecas, y mi abuela hacía por lo menos dos vestidos nuevos para cada ocasión importante. Hoy en día, los vestidos sobran para mi hija y cada uno sirve como un recordatorio de la talentosa bisabuela que tuvo.

Los vestidos sobran para mi hija y cada uno sirve como un recordatorio de la talentosa bisabuela que tuvo.

Como pareja, mis abuelos también me enseñaron del amor y como amar. Casados por casi 64 años y juntos como pareja por más de 69 años, no podían estar aparte uno del otro. Uno de los mejores ejemplos de esto fue hace unos años cuando los dos se enfermaron y estuvieron ingresados — por distintas razones. Abi tenía neumonía y Abu tenía que estar en observación por tener la presión baja. No podían estar en el mismo cuarto porque Abi lo podía contagiar. Pero pude convencer al hospital que los pusieran en el mismo piso para que se pudieran ver — y pa’ que fue aquello!

Mis abuelos eran un alma en dos cuerpos (Cuba 1950).

Esa noche no dormí. Yo pensaba pasar la mitad de la noche en un cuarto y la otra mitad en el otro. Pero apenas que uno se despertaba, me preguntaba dónde estaba el otro y que lo quería ver. Pasé la noche entera empujando en silla de rueda a Abi al cuarto de Abu mientras que Abu dormía — y viceversa. Cuando el sol salíó y los dos no podíamos dormir más, le pregunte a Abu como era posible estar casado por más de 60 años y me contesto: muy fácil, porque no podía imaginarlo de otra manera. Ellos eran un alma en dos cuerpos y así es el amor verdadero.

Abi, gracias por todo tu sacrificio, por todo lo que me enseñaste, y por tu ejemplo inolvidable. Te extrañaré y querré por siempre. Mándale mucho cariño de mi parte a mi mami y dile que todos nos veremos pronto.

Mi querida abuelita — que descanses en paz (Miami 2015).
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A promise kept, a dream fulfilled

In Havana on the Malecon in 2005

As a freshman in college, I traveled to Cuba for the first time. It was a personal “pilgrimage,” a journey to rediscover my roots and reconcile my family. When I told my parents I wanted to go to the island, it was a difficult conversation to say the least. My mom was adamantly against it. Our family left thinking they wouldn’t go back until things changed. They left loved ones and memories behind that entangled them with pain and nostalgia for what once was … and what could have been. For these reasons, I felt I needed to better understand what this all meant to me and could only do so by going there.

That first trip was a transformational and bittersweet experience. I found Cuba to be just as beautiful as my grandparents had told me. I met incredibly resourceful, caring and welcoming people that received me with open arms. At the same time, I encountered countless young people in such a deep state of desperation that they would rather risk it all throwing themselves into the sea with the hope of coming to the U.S. — instead of staying on the island. For me, this despair and disillusionment struck close to home when I met my family that stayed behind.

When I returned to college, I felt I could not let this be a stand-alone experience and had to do something about it. Along with some daring, courageous and loving young leaders I’ve grown to call my dearest friends, we founded Roots of Hope to help empower youth in Cuba to become the authors of their own futures. Our fundamental belief is that no one should feel like they need to flee their homeland due to the lack of freedom and opportunities. As the sons and daughters of the Cuban diaspora, we believe our responsibility is to bridge the divides and we are deeply committed to garnering support for our counterparts to make a better life for themselves and their families in Cuba.

Roots of Hope Student Leadership Conference at UM in 2009

After a dozen trips and witnessing the impact we’ve made with thousands of young people on both sides of the Florida straits, my mom came around and became one of our most ardent supporters. With her example, she proved this is not just a generational issue. Several years ago, I made her a promise: to one day take her back to Cuba after almost 50 years. In 2014, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and we decided to accelerate our plans. After the recent changes in U.S.-Cuba relations and Pope Francis’ announcement to visit the island, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to make this dream a reality.

My mom and I in Havana in 2015

Upon arriving in her homeland, my mother was interviewed by CNN on what this all meant to her. She shared a life lesson she taught me long ago: how to forgive — forgetting is hard, but forgiveness, it is liberating — it sets us free and empowers us to overcome adversity.

“I’ve come to a point in my life that we need to forgive,” she said. “My family… we had people in prison … hurt by the regime. I think it’s just time. It’s time to forgive, to forgive and to let these young people live.”

On September 29th, my mom and I returned from an unforgettable trip to Cuba. We arrived in Miami with a longing to go back again very soon. Two months later — on November 29th, my mom lost her long-fought battle with cancer. But her memory, her fighting-spirit, and her forgiving-soul continue to live in the seeds of hope she planted here — and there.

Listening to the Pope’s message of reconciliation, my mom and I felt there has been no better time for the Cuban people to come together and find a more inclusive way for moving forward. It is my personal belief that President Obama’s historic trip to the island is the next step in this journey. And for our family, this has been an opportunity to ensure a promise kept, a dream fulfilled.

My mom and Pope Francis in Havana in 2015
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To be steadfast

What my mom taught me

In loving memory of my mom Martha “Mumu” Serra Mohr (March 17, 1959-November 29, 2015)

My mom’s eulogy delivered on Dec. 5, 2015, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

On behalf of our entire family, I want to thank everyone gathered here for coming to celebrate my mom and her magnificent life. These have been difficult days, weeks, months and even years for our family — and we are all still mourning the loss of one of the most beautiful and beloved souls we have ever known. But we are reaffirmed; we are made steadfast in our faith knowing that she continues to live — both in our memories and upon high with our Lord and our Mother Mary.

This Thanksgiving weekend was a difficult one for many reasons. She loved this holiday more than any other. As children, we used to host at our home. And she was determined — especially this year — to celebrate it as a family, if it was the last thing she did (which it was). These last few weeks were difficult, but her fighting spirit was so strong, nothing could hold her back from leaving the hospital last Wednesday to give thanks and celebrate as a family on Thursday. Shortly after our dinner, I walked out onto the pier where we ate and came across a boat named “Steadfast.” Under the name it quoted scripture, the First Letter of Peter, Chapter 5, verse 10, which reads:

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
A boat named “Steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10)

Make you strong, firm and steadfast… If there was one thing my mom taught us, it was to be strong, firm and steadfast. She had a tenacious way about her — she exuded resilience and perseverance; she had a voracious appetite for life. She was courageous; and she was gracious.

When she was diagnosed, she was angry, we were all angry… I am still angry. But she never let the anger consume her — she channeled it to fight, to battle and to concur the disease that would try to claim her life. The last few years, she lived more than many live in a lifetime. She traveled the world many a times over — fulfilling lifelong dreams.

Several years ago, I was privileged enough to take her with me as my guest to a dinner at the White House. As simple of a life as she had lived, she made herself right at home. Several years later, I would return to work in that same building. And she frequented us so often that the Secret Service agents seemed to know her by name.

She was so special — so special that some of her greatest heroes felt compelled to lend their support. Most recently, she was serenaded by her beloved Barry Manilow, received a call by Vice President Joe Biden and was personally blessed by Pope Francis himself.

My mom being blessed by Pope Francis after mass in Havana, Cuba (September 2015).

After 46 years, she traveled back to her homeland of Cuba and danced with me on her hometown streets of Sancti Spiritus to the music of Beny More, Cecilia Cruz and Marc Anthony.

She loved to dance. She was my first dancing partner — and taught me how to love, appreciate and move to the son, danzon, and salsa from where we came from. She was always an island girl and adored the water, the peace it draped around us and the way it could calm our souls — even during the most difficult of times.

She was a giver — like Shel Silverstein’s “Giving Tree,” she gave until there was nothing more to give. When she fell ill, my daughter took to painting and one day, we ran out of canvases. My mom did not hesitate one second to give herself as the canvas and wore proudly the paint that my daughter adorned on her face.

My mom proudly wearing my daughter’s face painting master piece (September 2014).

She was not just a great mother– she was truly the best grandmother a child could ever ask for. Shortly after my daughter was born, my mom contemplated quitting her job to spend more time with her grandchildren.

My mom helping a St. Stephen’s student with their homework (November 2013)

But St. Stephen’s was not just a job — it was her community and an extension of our family that made an everlasting impression on her life. She was known as a surrogate mom and best friend to many — and her office chairs were often turned into counseling sessions where she would give advice, guidance and comfort to all who needed it. She found purpose here and truly belonged in these halls — and for this reason, it is so appropriate that she will rest in these walls.

We were fortunate. We were able to walk with her — alongside her, during this journey, to the very end. She was always surrounded by friends, family and loved ones. In the Jewish tradition, there is something called Shiva — which means seven. It is the seven days after someone passes in which a family is supposed to “sit” together. She loved the film by Jane Fonda called “This is where I leave you,” where the main character played by Fonda gets her children to sit Shiva after the passing of their father.

Well shortly after my mom was diagnosed, we began an extended “living Shiva” — in which our entire extended family would congregate almost religiously in a two bedroom apartment in the Keys every weekend to sit with one another, break bread with each other and enjoy our company with her.

Our family that held a “living Shiva” for nearly two years (July 2015).

In some ways, I feel this was probably her greatest parting gift: to unite and strengthen the bonds of those that loved her so dearly. And she left this earth with her husband, children, sisters, and nieces grabbing to her hands and clenched to her rails as she made her way to Heaven while we all prayed to Hail Mary.

She taught me to love… To love deeply and profoundly — with every bone in my body. She taught me to believe — in our Lord, in His mercy, and His grace. She taught me to hope — to never, ever give up. To battle until the bitter end with joy in our hearts. And she taught me how to forgive — forgetting is hard, she said. But forgiveness, it is liberating — it sets us free and empowers us to overcome adversity.

My mom, sisters and me at her “happy place” in the Florida Keys (July 2015).

And battling this terrible disease was undoubtedly the greatest adversity we’ve ever faced. Although we are not experts on cancer, throughout this process we have been blessed to count on the support of many friends in the healthcare industry — many gathered here today — that opened doors at leading hospitals like MD Anderson, Dana Farber and UM Sylvester. We were incredibly fortunate to lean on the amazing team at UM: the tireless doctors, nurses and caregivers at Sylvester that did everything in their power to save my mom and cared for her as if she was one of their own.

My mom’s incredible team of nurses and caregivers at UM Sylvester (October 2015).

In meeting with countless medical professionals and researchers, our minds were continuously blown by how close — and yet how far — we still are to finding a cure. Beyond that, we witnessed the unintentional and brutal pain patients like my mom incur as a result of archaic — and even new forms of — chemotherapies.

My mom on her second visit to MD Anderson (August 2015).

It was her belief — and it is our belief — that we must all commit ourselves to accomplishing the unthinkable: our “moon shot” to cure cancer. Crazier things have happened, she thought. We looked up into the heavens and said we would touch the face of God and put a man on the shiny surface of the moon — and we did it. Curing cancer can be Our Moon Shot. And so in her name, in her honor, in her tribute — we must carry on the good fight.

So within these walls, we can suffer, we can mourn and we can cry — but as we walk out those doors, we are called to open ourselves to the Lord who will restore us and make us strong, firm, and steadfast … in love, in faith, and in hope (just like she taught us).

Mama, I love you and I miss you. With this community bearing witness, we will not let your suffering go in vain. We will triumph over this terrible disease and one day soon — we will find a cure. I will miss you dearly and your memory will adorn my mind until we see each other once again — where Bob Dylan described:

“Beyond the horizon, behind the sun
At the end of the rainbow (where) life has only begun.”
The prayer service for my mom at her beloved St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School (Nov. 2015)

Our mom requested that in lieu of flower donations be made to MumuFund.org, a fund in established by our family in her honor to spread awareness of pancreatic cancer and raise funds for pancreatic cancer research.

Next Story — Clearpath celebrates Citizenship Day by providing free naturalization software
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Clearpath celebrates Citizenship Day by providing free naturalization software

I’m the son of Cuban immigrants that came to this country in search of freedom, opportunity and their American dreams. For this reason, myclearpath.com is dedicated to delivering world-class software that empowers immigrants and that helps democratize the U.S. immigration process.

My grandparents, mom and family arrive from Cuba in 1969.

For many immigrants like my parents, the immigration process can be complicated, costly and confusing.

It’s because of their struggle and sacrifice — and millions of immigrants like them — that we started Clearpath.

We were founded by former heads of USCIS with the purpose to create software that would make it easier, more affordable and secure for immigrants to complete their applications themselves.

This is how Clearpath works to simplify immigration

And for this reason, we are supporting Citizenship Day by providing free naturalization software for the next week — Constitution Week, Sept. 17–23, 2015.

For my parents — and so many immigrants like them, becoming American citizens was one of their greatest achievements.

The White House Task Force on New Americans April 2015 Report

According to the White House Task Force on New Americans, more than 8.8 million people are eligible for citizenship but haven’t applied.

The top reasons for not applying: cost, confusion and language.

This just isn’t right — and these shouldn’t be barriers for our community to accomplish their American dreams.

We want as many people as possible to have the same chances our families had to reach higher and realize their American dreams as American citizens.

Our extended family in Miami, FL, in July 2015. Photo by Pabelona Studio

If you or someone you know has been waiting to apply for citizenship, wait no longer and please encourage them to get started at myclearpath.com

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