Image Credits: Kamice

Everyone has a picture of what they think the American Dream is.  For some it means riches or fame, while others think it includes accomplishing their aspirations. No matter what it means to each specific person, the American Dream is what draws people to this great country; anyone from anywhere can achieve anything. Rafael Cruz put it similarly, “Only in America can someone start with nothing and achieve the American Dream. That’s the greatness of this country.” The United States is ripe with opportunities to work and to thrive. That is the story of my grandfather, the son of immigrants.  A man who went from humble beginnings to a life of hard work and success.

Meet Jackson Pledger, an accomplished cancer researcher, husband to a lovely wife, father of three children, grandfather of ten grandchildren, and friend to countless people. He has lived a life of hardships and victories. While his story is one of many, it is unique and it is an attribute to the greatness of America. His parents immigrated to the states from Ukraine.  Although I never met them, I am grateful they crossed the ocean to find a new life in America. Several years later, my grandfather’s life began in Pennsylvania. Shortly after, the family moved to Texas, where my grandpa spent his childhood and young adult years. Life always presents difficulties; for my grandfather it was poverty and limited education. While some might think his life would have no future, he persevered and overcame various obstacles. He studied diligently in college, and eventually became Dr. Pledger. After years and years of labor and hard work, he became a well-known professional in his field, and to this day continues to work diligently to find a cure for cancer. I am blessed to have this man as an example of diligence, work, and success.

Not only has my Papa Jack – as I call him – left a legacy of perseverance and determination, he has also instilled invaluable values in me: honesty, generosity, kindness, love for people, and love for God. He has been a role model of what it means to serve others, to be a good neighbor, and to lead a respectable life. He has influenced the ways I think about a lot of things, especially my country – he loves America and its founding values. Never will he refrain from helping those in need. His work will never get in the way of him spending time with his family. While the American Dream means work and success, I believe it is also about these characteristics – honesty, kindness, and love for people, country and God. As Senator Marco Rubio said, “The American Dream is a term that is often used but also often misunderstood. It isn’t really about becoming rich or famous. It is about things much simpler and more fundamental than that.” I do acknowledge that my grandpa has accomplished a lot in his life, but it really is about the simple things.

Living in America may not always be easy, but my grandfather’s life proves that it is always possible to achieve success. Only in America is it possible to be the son of immigrants, live poorly, receive little education as a young boy and still become a successful individual. This is what my grandfather taught me about the American Dream; anyone from anywhere can achieve anything. No matter who they are, how their life started or what their current circumstances are, America offers a bright future full of opportunities – that is the essence of the American Dream. In the words of Tommy Hilfiger, “The road to success is not easy to navigate, but with hard work, drive and passion, it’s possible to achieve the American dream.” I am grateful that my grandfather achieved the American Dream through hard work, drive, and passion; I am even more thankful to call him my Papa Jack.

Katya P
Katya Pledger is a high school student who is thankful to be an American and is passionate about the Constitution, conservatism, and capitalism.

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