On Monday I was honored to be a guest speaker at a leadership conference for young adults, students ages 16-24, in Washington, D.C. Many of the attendees were children of families who immigrated to the United States, like me. The theme of my discussion, and one of the goals of the conference, was providing guidance and advice on what it takes, what skills are required, to be successful entrepreneurs, and good leaders.

Student Faraz Mirza and Tariq Farid

This is an area I am very passionate about. I strongly believe that we are blessed to be living in America and our onlylimitations are the constraints we put on ourselves. It was important for me to explain to the audience that it’s not just about checking off a list of acquired skills that will make you successful, rather it’s more about identifying what it is you want to do and work with intelligent passion to make it happen. It’s important that young adults recognize the opportunity that is open to them by being in the United States. It’s really the American opportunity that leads to the American Dream. In my discussion I felt it was important to tell the audience my own personal story and that of my family.

In 1906, my maternal great-grandfather emigrated from what was then known as British India to the United States. He, like many others, came to America because of the opportunity for work in rebuilding San Francisco after the great earthquake of 1906. When he returned home he entranced his family and many others with stories about the generosity of the people and the tremendous opportunities available in America. Even after the partition of India in 1947, which lead to the formation of the sovereign states of Pakistan and the Republic of India, when family members were forced into refugee camps, my grandfather’s stories about the greatness of and opportunities in America kept their hopes and dreams alive.

Likewise, the dream of my grandparents and that of their children was to go to America and build a new life. For them and countless others, America symbolized hope, opportunity and the ability to achieve anything with hard work. Ever since she was a little girl, my mother planned to come to America. She knew one day she would get here as America was the best and only place to raise her children and give them the chance to live their dreams. My mother was so proud on that day of August 14, 1981 when she arrived in America to experience firsthand everything she heard in her grandfather’s stories. From that very first day my mother taught my siblings and me the importance of taking advantage of what is here, setting goals and focusing on them with laser-like precision, being optimistic and honoring those that came before us.

I tell this story as the America of today still provides hope, opportunity and fulfillment of dreams for millions of people. Don’t let all the negativity and naysayers try to convince you otherwise. This land of opportunity has not been diminished. However, it’s how you take advantage of this opportunity that matters. In my next blog entry I will discuss what I told the students about how to take advantage of the opportunities that only America can offer.

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