Viewpoint: The mid-20s power flip for a first generation American
By Gloria Ruci
My parents immigrated to the United States in 1995, just a year before I was born, with no more than the clothes on their back, and a faint glimpse of what would eventually become their “American dream.” With no money and no connections, my parents had no choice, but to raise my sister and I in a Section 8 housing project in my hometown of Dover.
My parents fled Albania during the inevitable collapse of communism during the 1990s, so you could say that my parents lived through poverty not just once, but twice. Once by force, once by choice. However, they knew that in America, you could start at the very bottom, and somehow, make your way to the very top, with hard work and determination.
My father, who once held an admired position as an officer in Albania’s army before fleeing his homeland in pursuit of the American dream, now found himself tirelessly working two entry-level jobs, just to care for his young family. My mother, who was a distinguished collegiate scholar before her brave decision to abandon her lifelong dreams in Albania to find unrivaled success in the United States, was now an unemployed stay-at-home mother, starting from scratch in a completely far off country. Years later, I attended Towne Point Elementary School, arguably one of the most inclusive public schools in Delaware, where I met someone named Principal Gene Capers, who taught me at a young age that all of my family’s struggles would prove to be advantageous in telling my own story one day. Twenty five years later, his advice still rings true.
Although I was a very sharp kid, I grew up learning Albanian as my first language, so my English was unsteady at times. My accent was modest, despite my American roots. I wasn’t born into privilege, but I never lost my dignity.
Despite these years of harsh adversity, my parents became first-time entrepreneurs in the early 2000s, against all odds. I was just 12 years old when I began working for the family business. This is when I finally understood that all of my parents’ dreams – and mine – had finally come to fruition.
One of my most memorable experiences was greeting and serving active members of the Dover Air Force Base, who were always dressed in crème de la crème apparel. One day, a very generous man, and a very good friend of my father’s, left a $20 tip in the tip jar, and playfully told me, “Young lady, this is for you. Don’t let anyone take away what’s rightfully yours.” This moment embodied the true essence of pure American capitalism, now in the hands of a first-generation American for the first time in her life.
The American dream can, and will, elevate all of us to unimaginable heights because we belong to a democracy that champions individuals with cutting-edge leadership, innate talent, undying originality, and relentless ambition. As a young 20-something, I always hear the assertion that if you give someone an inch, they’ll take a mile. However, when you live in a country of limitless opportunities, why wouldn’t you do the same? We need more dreamers, risk-takers, visionaries, and most importantly, young, outspoken, unapologetic 20-somethings in Delaware that can see their way to the top, and make real contributions to Delaware’s insider business community, with an outsider’s edge.
Gloria Ruci is a pharma/biopharma account manager for IntelliSource on behalf of Agilent Technologies.