With dust in his eyes, hope evaporated in the desert heat like the water in his jug. But he continued. He knew he had to make a final attempt to reach the promised land. Rationing his food and sleeping clear of any debris that might harbor snakes, he hiked through the dangerous terrain and made it. A young, naïve, poor boy from Mexico had finally made it to the United States.
My father's unrelenting determination is one of the many lessons he passed down to me. Through his tired and weary hands, I learned the value of hard work and the meaning of a strong work ethic.
The applications of these lessons have led to a path of fulfilling success. I am the first person in my family to earn an education beyond the third grade, the first person to have a job that did not require manual labor, and the first person in my family to attend law school. I am proud to say that I have set up a legacy of University of Washington graduates in my family.
Since the day my father set foot on U.S. soil, he never stopped working, whether it was pruning grape vines to picking cherries. I grew up knowing that my parents had left their homes to pursue their American dream; the dream of having a stable roof over their heads and food on the table. It is easy to overlook all the luxuries that surround us on a daily basis: running water, microwaves, homes made of concrete. But when you come from nothing, a simple dream of merely surviving is already above and beyond anything that you could imagine having.
Both of my parents not only held my siblings and me to a higher standard, they encouraged us to do our best every single day, in every aspect of our lives. They instilled in us the importance of being positive contributors to America and to be grateful for every day we were allowed to remain a family here on U.S. soil.
In the eyes of an immigrant, passion and courage of conviction get you very little in America. For the many years my father withered away in the sun, working the land that he called his sanctuary, he could not call it home. Legally, he did not exist and although he tried to hide behind a façade of contentment, the hurt was always prominent in his eyes.
My family endured years of many instances of racism, all because my parents could not speak English. And where others would turn to the law for refuge, we were left only to deal with the emotional scars because of my parents' fear of the law itself - a law that they only knew as a tool to break up families.
So, growing up, my dream was not to be a pop star or a famous movie actress. My heart and mind told me that I had to find a way to change my family's circumstance. I had to find a way to help others, who, just like my parents, wanted nothing more than a better life.
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