I always feel appreciative to live in this great country and to be afforded the luxuries of being an American. I am probably one of the few people I know who prefers travel in the USA to travel elsewhere. So be it.
The last few years since stepping down from my full time position as CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop I have been able to appreciate my freedoms more deeply. While I loved my 16 years at the helm of the company I founded in 1997, I was able to find my successor and move to the “next act” of my life. Perhaps the greatest gift I could give my company and the children who will enjoy it in the future is our new CEO, Sharon John. While no one could have created what I did at Build-A-Bear Workshop, someone else can take it to its new and better future. The realization of this for me was my freedom. Now I could go and work on other things I cared about deeply–inspiring other entrepreneurs, especially women and minorities and working in my community to improve our public education systems. What if our Halls of K-12 education became more like Malls of Education where teachers and school leaders had to inspire children to enter their classroom just as we do in a mall? The best teachers would add entertainment value and hands on learning just as we did with Build-A-Bear Workshop. Stay tuned!
My parents were first generation Americans and they wanted my sister and me to have all the benefits afforded to children born in this great land—a quality public education, the opportunity to have the best health care in the world, the opportunity to live, work and vote in a democracy and the birthright to achieve your own greatest potential. As I look back on it, I have benefited from all of that and even more. It seems that as I take one path, I found at least two others that added greatly to me as a person and also allowed me to add to it as well. Only in America, the land of opportunity is not just words in a song—it is the reality of what America brings and has always brought for immigrants looking for a brighter future. That has not changed…if anything it has gotten stronger. In my daily life in St. Louis or wherever I travel I meet people who have come here to have a better life and have added greatly to what is America and they are so proud to become true American citizens. They may know more about America then children lucky enough to be born here.
In April and May I had two occasions to visit my hometown of Miami, FL. Always when I travel to Miami I marvel at the diversity that has become Miami. Miami always had a Latin feel but that was furthered during the 1960’s when so many Cubans fled to Miami for a life of freedom. Thanks to all of these immigrants—so anxious for a future, that Miami was reborn and is today one of the hub cities in our country—a hot place literally and figuratively to live, work and play. No longer is it a place for just good weather and Spring Break pandemonium but it is a place where diverse cultures have come together to create a 21st century city like no other in America. One of the fun parts is to see how Miami has adapted all of the modern technologies and services to continue to fuel its growth like Uber and Lyft! Our personal drivers were all timely and friendly and the travel in Miami traffic was a pleasure and cheaper than a rental car or taxis for sure!
Not all immigrants to Miami are from Latin America. Our hotel has staff from Russia, London and India.Our Uber and Lyft drivers were equally diverse. It was the sparkle in all of their eyes that really said it all. It is through their eyes and the eyes of all immigrants to our great country that we can see what we may take for granted—what freedom really means. How can we all understand how valuable it is if we have always had it? Aren’t we all immigrants of some sort? I immigrated from Florida to Missouri. I was an immigrant to the man’s world of business. Today I am a digital immigrant because I have had to learn technology where children today are born to it. I am an immigrant to all the things I have learned and still want to learn. I understand what it feels like to have to prove your sincerity, that freedom to achieve your true potential is not automatic—it still must be earned.
This past year especially in St. Louis has made us all look at our freedoms differently–to value them, to ask why they are not afforded to all citizens of our country and in MO, our state and in turn, empower our freedoms to do the great things our forefathers expected. The writers of our Constitution did an incredible job of creating a foundation of freedom for all our citizens and those that come to our country. Article 15 says it all: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of Citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.” (bold added by me).
On this 4th of July weekend I am reminded of all the values I hold dear, all of the freedoms I have been granted and all of the responsibilities that come with being a citizen of this great country. I live in a state of happiness fueled by a passion for everything I am committed to: the company I founded. The people I work with, my husband and friends, my community,the young school children I work for every day, my gratitude for my good health and every breath I breathe in freedom. I know that I have created this happiness by choice. I do know it’s not just one choice that makes the difference—it is all of the mini choices that I have made along the way that have led me to this moment in time. The choices that I am able to make because I am an American citizen.
Happy 4th of July!