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Journeys of Hope, Sacrifice, and Success

I just remember so many pebbles, gray ones, covering the grass. The figures who laid them came in waves, long and dark, gnawing at the ground sunrise to sunset. Every day it seemed a new stone would be placed, and every day another one our friends would leave. The grass turned to stone. Dad then decided it was time to leave.

I felt sick. For weeks or even months the constant motion of moving side to side, the churning of my stomach, and staying huddled in the corner of a cold damp cabin crowded by strangers was life. One day it stopped, and we reached my new world.

 And a new chapter began for millions. The boy's father, a handloom weaver, had been laid off, as the new invention of the power loom had been taking over many factories in his hometown, Dunfermline. So, the family of four accepted a loan from George Lauder, the boy's uncle. Travel commenced. Atop the restless churning waves of the ocean, months time wasn’t sufficient to settle in the depths of the ship before they approached land. The average day was spent in the lower compartments of the ship, huddled in dim light, cradled in a sea of typhus and dysentery.

Reaching land was not the end of the journey.  Four more weeks with travel even harsher than before. Hundreds of people would all rush onto a single river boat lucky to get a spot. Traveling through the banks of the Ohio River, the steam boat encountered banks lined with “Snags” and “Sandbars”, hazards that have claimed the lives of many travelers who had attempted the journey before. Finally, the journey on water had ended and a new one had begun. Rolling the dice, caused the final stop to be at the bustling port town, New Orleans, Louisiana.

 Leaving behind the small rustic Scottish town of Dunfermline, meant saying goodbye to familiarity. The voyage across the ocean and daunting rivers raised the question of death. Yet, despite the formidable odds, the boy's family took the sacrifice. This was the story of a young Scottish boy turned who became the wealthiest man of his time, Andrew Carnegie.

Carnegie's parents, as many have done, embarked on their journeys pursuing the “American Dream”: an opportunity of risk and uncertainty on one path and a better future on another. In the late 19th and early 20th century, millions of people decided to embark on this journey.

However, America's immigrants do not solely come from the Gilded Age. For example, America has been regarded as a nation built of immigrants since travelers first colonized the land. Of course, the exception is those who were here before anyone “discovered the land'', the Indigenous peoples

. From the earliest Colonists settlers to modern refugees like those from Syria, the American Dream of determination in the face of adversity has always been present. As for myself, my own family's journey mirrors that of millions.

My great-grandfather had embarked on a journey away from the war in Greece and left amidst the chaos of World War 1. He, like many others, sought opportunity, and an escape from oppression to find safety. But the challenges my great-grandfather had faced during his journey, from crossing the Atlantic to the uncertainty of finding a future,is just one example of one journey. He took the daunting journey at the age of nineteen. My mother's choice to leave Venezuela for America wasn't simply a matter of moving, but it meant leaving behind family, her home, and a life that she might never reclaim.

When people say the American Dream, whether referring to the Great Gatsby or maybe the mere construct of the idea, we need to realize that not everyone is going to become a “Andrew Carnegie.” America loves a great success story but not everyones going to be the richest, most or most successful person because there can only be one. I like to think of the dream as a drive. A driving factor. An opportunity that our ancestors or us might take. It becomes clear that sacrifice is not just a facet of the immigrant experience, but it is its very essence. The willingness to leave everything behind to go on an uncertain path embodies those before us. Our ancestors' stories of sacrifice, facing adversity, shows that even in the darkest times, the light will be found. From the Scottish boy who first worked as a bobbin boy to modern immigrants seeking refuge from war-torn land, each journey has a testament to the human possibility for hope and success. Courage in the midst of uncertainty acts as an eternal embrace for opportunity. By looking at the grass between the pebbles, it will help us pave the cement. 

by Demosthenes Givas

Demosthenes Givas is an eleventh-grader at Redwood High School in Larkspur, California. Immigration has been a large part of his life as his dad's side is made up of immigrants, and his mother also. As a result, he was inspired to write an essay about the meaning of immigration to not only himself but to society.  


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