Why I Decided to Stay in America
The year I moved to America was characterized by sixteen mass shootings. After the horrific murders of six-year-olds in Newtown later that year, I told my husband that I didn’t want to live here. Over the five years since, we’ve discussed the possibility of moving outside of the United States at least 100 times. It’s usually after another episode of senseless violence and much more frequently since the recent election of the American president.
Every time we come close to moving, something holds us back in America – mostly our jobs, but often it’s a reluctance to give up what we do love about living here: the welcome expression of speech, press and diverse ideas...and of course, Seattle’s coffee. But as immigrants, there’s no denying that America has become less hospitable for us in the last year.
I was ecstatic when I learned of my selection for the 2017 Young American Leaders Program. An all-expenses trip to Harvard Business School plus the opportunity to learn from one of my academic idols, Rosabeth Moss Kantor? Yes, please! At the same time, I had doubts on whether I would be the right person to dedicate towards Seattle’s future prosperity. I got on the flight to Boston both curious and skeptical.
The program was incredible – but in different ways than I expected. It was inspiring to learn from emerging leaders across the country who were deeply invested in seeing their communities prosper, even against insurmountable hardships like our peers had faced in Detroit. There was eye-opening levels of commitment shown by people who were personally taking action to fill middle-skills jobs, or boost education or transportation for their communities. It was exciting to learn how the right combination of government, nonprofit and private sector collaboration could drive lasting change within communities as different as Mexico City and Maine. It became clear that with a shared vision, diverse representation and a will to change, American cities can and will survive and thrive. Most of all, the experience sparked a renewed love for and commitment to Seattle. For all the issues of inequity we deal with, It was heartening to have a majority of women and people of color represent our cohort. We led all nine cities by that measure!
That week and the months since have made me see that giving up on America isn’t the right answer for me. Seattle now has a unique opportunity to lead our country in creating a diverse and equitable society by intentional and thoughtful design.
When I’m tired, frustrated and chastised -- as I often am these days -- I reach for this quote by Margaret Mead that crystallizes my YALP experience: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.