Sam loved Iran. His mind could draw a straight line from a childhood spent sleeping on Hamedanian rooftops to his ascension as CFO of a multinational company. His success and wealth, however, all crumbled that day he was jailed by the henchman of a new Ayatollah who was deeply suspicious of his bosses political leanings. He won't tell us the details now, but his release, ushered by Shah loyalists at the prison, likely spared his life.
Months later, with visas obtained in Italy, Sam, his wife, and three children boarded a flight into the unknown. His wealth, property, and status remained in the country he loved. There was a pact that if they were detained at the airport, his wife and children would flee to America alone. A pact that would thankfully be allowed a single day reprieve. One of Sam's colleagues was detained the next afternoon and never heard from again.
America was not easy. Brutal in fact. Sam's position as CFO carried little weight in the US. He traveled hours on public transportation to jobs he was overqualified for to receive paltry wages. His wife, a teacher in Iran, became a manicurist. They survived day to day in a tiny two bedroom apartment. The Iran hostage crisis insured that there was no shortage of discrimination and racial slurs thrown their way.
But Sam had no time to complain. He was caught up in the most American of pastimes-providing a life for his three young children. So he found a way. When his shoe stores failed he scraped enough money together to buy an apartment building. And they had enough. Never a lavish life like he had in Iran, but there was always food on the table.
Sam's eldest daughter became a lawyer and eventually worked for the government. She had given much to her country including years of service in a very dangerous Afghanistan. It was at her invitation that three generations of his family were gathered to meet our great leader.
As he walked into the oval office, Sam adjusted his eyes to the splash of light and color, flash bulbs and smiles. A man who was forced to flee a country he loved for dubious political reasons, was now face to face with the leader of his adopted country. Ironic that he hadn't voted for this president, or agreed on so many issues. This was allowed here. Celebrated.
It had never been easy. Sam's family was nearly deported a few years after emigrating. He had been held up at gunpoint in his shoe store twice. He was a victim of far more crimes than any petty moving violation he may have committed while driving absentmindedly. His family faced discrimination of almost every stripe.
America, however, was also a country of unthinkable kindness and good intention. Her actions were often flawed, but her principles were unflappable.
At least until recently.
Sam's youngest daughter, my wife and mother of my two children, accompanied her father that day in the oval office.
He waited in line with the rest of his family. He smiled when the President stood in front of him, and offered his hand. His English still broken after all these years, his voice was almost a whisper as he spoke his given name in greeting.
I am Saeed.