With Independence Day occurring at a tumultuous time marked by a global pandemic and a national crisis over racial injustice, Climate gave local contributors carte blanche to write their perspectives on what makes America special. We will be publishing our contributors’ American Stories now through July 4. Keep an eye out for these unique and personal pieces.
I was born in San Francisco in 1966, my mother was born in Mexico City and my father in San Francisco, as his father was the Consul General of Mexico there. My mother’s American dream was to become an American citizen, be a mom and become a nurse. She accomplished it all. My father’s dream was to serve his country, have a family, buy a home and be able to provide for his family. He accomplished that.
I did not grow up learning about the American dream from my parents, relatives or from my teachers. It was my love for American history that drove my American dreams, no matter how often they changed.
My father wanted me to be to be a UPS driver; he thought it was a great company to work for and they were union, which provided long-term job security. To him that was the American dream he wanted for me. It wasn’t until I was around my mid-20’s that I picked up an old history book sitting on a shelf and started reading the Declaration of Independence. And there it was, right in front of me: “All men are created equal, with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” A picture of a painting on the opposite side of the page depicted the signing of the document.
The American dream for me was not about owning a house with a white-picket fence, it wasn’t about security and it wasn’t following what my father hoped I would do. It was about my inalienable right to pursue my own dreams, no matter how crazy they were, how many there were, how short-lived some were or how often they beat me down. When you find others along the way who share those same dreams, and you help one another pursue them, it just makes those dreams even more worthwhile to go after. Just like it was for the country’s founders 244 years ago.
So, I continue to add to my collection of dreams and continue to be proud to be living in a country that does not limit me in pursuing as many dreams as I want, for as long as I am able to pursue them. God Bless America.
Ernie Schmidt, 53, has had a lifelong love of the theater and became the general manager of Fox Theatre Properties in January. He and his wife Gina have been Redwood City residents since 2001.