- - Sunday, August 13, 2017


After a 14-hour flight from Tbilisi, Georgia on Jan. 11, 2016, my plane landed at Dulles International Airport. This was my first visit to the United States, a country which I had long admired for many years. America. Where Ronald Reagan as president saved the world from the threat of communism and brought freedom to hundreds of millions of people.

For my millennial generation in Georgia, Mr. Reagan’s legacy was idolized. I wasn’t yet born when the Berlin Wall came down, but I grew up in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, a beautiful country the size of Maryland. My father came to the United States in 2004 and we applied for my “Greencard.” I waited impatiently for it to arrive.

I was always yearning to come to America, and most of the information when I was younger flickered on the screen of a small theater in Tbilisi. There were beautiful love stories, adventures, stories about independent dreamers and schemers.

And then I arrived. It’s hard to express my initial impressions. Feelings were so strong. I remember smiling faces at the airport, a friendly atmosphere and a feeling of freedom and liberty in the air. Everyone I met was polite. Everyone said, “Have a good day.”

My father took me to the White House, where I stared at the portraits and walked the same halls as Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan and Bush. So much history in one place. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. Then we went to Capitol Hill. The wide marble halls with lawmakers and aides scurrying, reporters carrying tape machines and iPhones. This, I said to myself, was the heartbeat of democracy.

America overcame the military superpower of the day at its founding, led the way in defeating Nazism and Communism, and has been the world leader in exploring everything from the swamps to the stars. I agree with Ronald Reagan when he said “America truly is the last best hope for man on earth.”

Dreams come true in America, and I do believe my own dreams will come true. The main thing I learned, as every foreigner must, is that wishing is not enough. We need to work, do a good job and never lose hope. No matter how many people tell you that you can’t do it — keep going.

Don’t quit.

Patience is our best friend. Everyday, I meet new and interesting people. I am becoming more independent. I do not look through rose-colored glasses. Unexpected joys and sorrows in life do happen; these surprises may make you smile or bring tears to your eyes. I recall Charlie Chaplin’s saying: “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles.”

Competition is an underlying theme in America. You can only win with knowledge and experience. Competition can be positive, since it motivates us and challenges us to do our best. A good education is not a luxury in America. No matter your race, color or creed, college is available. Dream big. Become a doctor, or lawyer. Become a star in the arts or tech field. Education will help my generation change the world. I know my rights will never be restricted in this country. My efforts and hard work will never be wasted.

People in this country are not interested in whose child you are, or wife, or husband, as in other countries. They look at what you can do on your own.

There is free media, and supremacy of law. All of us are equal, with the right to vote, the right to express our opinions, the right to wish for a better life and make that dream come true. Our freedom ends with the suppression of other people’s rights. No matter how many sleepless nights working or studying, the end result is always the same. Working toward a goal.

I believe that no matter what your age, you can find success in America. This country offers my generation so much; peace and security in a strong Democratic environment. In the spirit of Ronald Reagan, I believe America has always been great. That’s why, when I fulfill my goals, I will proudly say, “I did it. Thanks America!”

• Sofya Bakuria, from the country Georgia, is studying International Relations.

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