‘Nobody succeeds alone’

Americans must fight for their neighbors and friends

Vice Mayor Eric Guerra represents District 6 on the Sacramento City Council<i>.</i>

Vice Mayor Eric Guerra represents District 6 on the Sacramento City Council.

I am a proud American, an American who immigrated here undocumented and became a citizen by choice.

Being an American in 2019 is a paradox. On the one hand, I have a strong sense of brotherhood with my fellow Americans, brought about by the aspirational values of our Constitution and common belief than anyone can succeed. On the other hand, Americans hold a deep respect for the individual and the protection of personal freedoms and civil liberties.

I was born in my grandmother’s adobe house in a small village in Mexico but raised in Esparto, a modest farming town in Yolo County. I spent much of my youth picking produce with my family in order to help make ends meet. To this day, I can still recall the sounds of my dad trying to start the old Ford Ranger before we headed out to the fields. In the early hours of the morning, I always prayed that it wouldn’t start.

Paying my way through college as a janitor, I was able to earn an engineering degree and master’s degree from Sacramento State—an achievement that allowed my family to join the middle class in less than a generation. It is unlikely to find the same opportunity for a path out of poverty in many other nations.

Although the memory of living in poverty remains fresh in my mind, I have since reaped the benefits of a public education. I owe my success to the numerous people who answered my calls for help, intervened when no one asked and genuinely cared for my well-being. Good Americans cared.

My family and I have been no strangers to hard work, but the misconceived idea that a true American pulls themselves up by only their bootstraps is a fallacy. I learned early on you can never replace hard work and perseverance, but nobody succeeds alone.

These days, what wakes me up is not that old Ford Ranger, but my 18-month-old son, Javier. Every morning my wife and I get him ready, I pack my briefcase into my car and start my day as the vice mayor of the city of Sacramento.

I know that my son will have a very different childhood than I did, but I hope he will recognize the diaspora of being American, that he has a grandmother from Mexico and another from Long Island. I hope he will recognize that the backbone of this nation are families just like his and that his middle-class childhood came about because other Americans cared.

He will understand that being an American in 2019 is not synonymous with being a nationalist. To the contrary, being a proud American means stomping out influences of hate, racism and inequality.

As Americans, we cannot forget to fight for our neighbors and friends, the people who serve our food, watch our children, clean our offices and homes, and for all our hard-working taxpaying families trying to provide for their loved ones.

Now, more than ever, we must find ways to come together and unify as Americans. We must fight together to protect our individual freedoms and not to suppress individuals we believe are different.

I have faith that as a country we can move forward as one. The threat of nationalism aims to divide us as a nation and isolate us from the rest of the world. We can no longer afford to be passive regarding threats placed on our core American values.

Being an American in 2019 means that we cannot simply tolerate our differences; we must celebrate them and acknowledge that it is our diversity that makes us stronger together. Our country continues to evolve in thought, being an American is a paradox and maybe this is just my two cents.

But E pluribus unum, our nation’s motto, is printed on our penny: Out of many, one.