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Thanksgiving - an American holiday that holds special significance for every proud immigrant

By Nasser Kazeminy, Chairman of the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO)

NEW YORK, Nov. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With our personal calendars filled with holidays that range from religious observances to children's birthdays there is only one day of the year that we can all sit down together as one large, diverse family of Americans and celebrate who we are, where we came from and why this remains an extraordinary country of opportunity. Welcome Thanksgiving.

The holiday is particularly important to the first generation immigrant. It might not have been so very long ago when he or she was in a distant country dreaming of becoming an American citizen. Perhaps it was an economic decision to immigrate, as so many previous families can attest to. Perhaps it was the threat of religious or political persecution that motivated the immigrant to seek the New World. In the end, it doesn't really matter what the reason was. The fact remains that America has been built and sustained by successive waves of immigrants who have fervently believed that they and their families could become anything they wanted to in a nation that offered freedom and unlimited opportunity.

This Thanksgiving, in dining rooms and kitchens, in sparse apartments or spacious homes, immigrants will gather with their loved ones and friends. They will confront the turkey and its traditional side dishes, knowing that while it may be an exotic dish requiring, for some, an acquired taste after years of their own native cuisine, they will, nevertheless, serve it with pride.  By doing so they will be starting a personal tradition that marks their embrace of this uniquely American holiday and their own American journey. One suspects they may also introduce to the table some traditional dishes from their native lands which will only serve to remind us that we are a true melting pot of cultures and ethnicities.

The holiday also comes at a time when there is a fierce argument over the President's decision to seek immigration reform through executive order. The anger and vitriol from both sides threatens to obscure the enormous role of the American immigrant today, and throughout the centuries of our nation's history. For those who came here seeking legal entry and eventual citizenship it is a particularly painful debate as we can see both sides of the issue quite clearly.

This author came to the United States from Iran in 1969. I had no grand plan. Rather, I only had the promise of a job in the emerging information technology field with a young family to support. But I knew, like every hopeful immigrant around the globe knows, that only in America can success be achieved through hard work, since, regardless of all our societal problems, it is our work ethic that remains the most important criteria by which we judge our fellow citizens.

When these new American citizens sit down for their holiday meal this week, the odds are they personally locked up their businesses and shops to observe the day. The Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) reports that foreign-born individuals start their own businesses across the nation at more than twice the rate of those born here (with the Greek community holding the top honors in their analysis of which immigrant group is most likely to open a small business). In New York, our nation's most famed melting pot, the last census data available reveals that some 48% of the city's entrepreneurs were foreign-born.

All of this is not just a reflection on these proud, diverse, hardworking American citizens. Rather, it is a celebration of our nation's spirit and heritage, allowing us all to reflect on the fact that the first Thanksgiving dinner convened so many centuries ago had at the head of the table an immigrant who embraced a new start in a new world.

Mr. Kazeminy is a technology entrepreneur who launched the certification industry in America and globally, creating over 200,000 jobs and certifying the specific knowledge of over 60 million individuals in a variety of fields from doctors, nurses, networking engineers, computer programmers, secretarial, digital literacy as well as other sectors. Humanitarian issues of particular interest to Mr. Kazeminy are those affecting the health, education and welfare of children where he has provided substantial financial support.  He is also a supporter of democracy throughout the world as the major benefactor of the Foundation for Promotion of Democracy and serves as Chairman of NECO

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SOURCE National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO)

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