I recently saw a public service announcement on a vehicle featuring women of color and a message that they deserved equal treatment. Equal treatment under the law is a Constitutional mandate, which was not always practiced. We all know our history where people were treated poorly because of their faith, skin color, national origin and a number of other things that had nothing to do with the content of their character. During my lifetime residential Codes and Codicils restricted who could buy a home: no Mexicans, Blacks, Armenians, Chinese and others. This certainly happened, and it was most certainly wrong. Everyone wants, and should demand, to be treated respectfully and ethically by others and their government.
In recent years, I have also seen campaigns for inclusivity and equity for all Americans. There have also been calls for monetary settlements for the wrongs of the past. Being paid for something that did not harm you by people who did not commit the harm seems wrongminded.
In America, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights; the pursuit is guaranteed but not the outcome. I hear voices who believe they deserve financial equality without investment or “sweat equity”; education benefits, including wiping out all student debt, but not the dedication to their grades; job training without showing the determination and perspiration. Some voices expect the check without any strings to simply stay home and do nothing. The American Dream is a journey with many winding roads, difficult terrain and sometimes failure …but in America you can succeed with perseverance and courage.
I knew a man who pursued his American dream: my father-in-law, Jess Avila. Jess was born in a farm labor camp in Minnesota. Jess left school early to work in the fields and support his mother and siblings. He served in the Air Force in Korea during the war. In 1960, Jess bought a home here in Clovis because he wanted to raise his daughters in our small and safe community of 5,500 people. Jess wasn’t sure they would sell a home to him because of his heritage, so he dressed the family up. He later told me that he should have bought two houses. Like many of his generation, his girls did not learn Spanish because he did not want them to speak English with an accent. Jess and Adela went to almost every single one of the Cougars football game, home and away, for over 3 decades. Jess died at 87 on his way home from a football games. The American Dream is out there, but it requires sacrifice, determination, commitment and courage … like Jess.