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Senior Spectrum Newspaper
September 2018
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Senior Spectrum Publications

Opinion
by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
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Celebrating Our Grandparents is a Yearlong Honor

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto

On September 9th the country celebrated Grandparents Day, a day for all generations to honor the contributions of grandparents and seniors in their communities. The theme of this year’s celebration was immigration, a fitting tribute to the courage of many of our grandparents and great-grandparents who came to this country seeking the chance to succeed, to work hard, and to give their kids every opportunity possible.

I am the proud grand-child and greatgrandchild of immigrants, and I was lucky to live close to all of my grandparents growing up in Las Vegas. Being able to hear for myself their stories of sacrifice and triumph and to see with my own eyes the richness of the lives they built for themselves and their children in this country profoundly shaped the way I see the world.

My father’s parents met in a small town in New Mexico. My grandfather was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and crossed the Rio Grande when he was a young man with dreams of a better life, greater opportunities, and carving out a place for his family in the United States. He met and married my grandmother, the eldest of 13 children after serving proudly in the United States Army, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. When my grandparents moved to Las Vegas in 1944, their first home in their new city was a trailer. They worked hard to establish themselves in Las Vegas, back when it was a town of less than 40,000. My mother’s parents are Italian, both of her grandfathers emigrated from Italy. After starting their married life in Kansas City, Missouri, my grandparents moved their young family to Las Vegas in 1953. Though my grandparents had only high school diplomas, they were always reading, volunteering, and encouraging me to pursue my interests with passion and determination. It was my mother’s father who first sparked my interest in numbers and analytics when he taught me to read the stocks in the daily newspapers as a young girl.

Though they came from vastly different families, the most important thing my grandparents taught me crossed the cultural divides of their different backgrounds. The lesson was the same whether I spent Sunday dinner at my Italian grandparents’ house, sharing conversation over a plate of homemade meatballs and sauce, or at the table of my Mexican grandparents, enjoying homemade tortillas and tamales. We must celebrate where we come from.

I often wonder what my grandfather and great grandfathers could have envisioned for their futures when they came to this country. Could they have dreamed that their courage would one day allow a granddaughter and great granddaughter to be the first woman Senator from Nevada, and the first Latina in American history to serve in the United States Senate? Perhaps not, but I imagine they did dream of success and opportunity for their family, children, and grandchildren. That is, and always has been, the American story. It’s a story of each progressive generation of immigrants standing on the shoulders of their ancestors and building something stronger. It’s a proud one that I embrace at the core of my identity. It’s one that I’ve carried with me into the Halls of Congress. And it is a story that my grandparents exemplified throughout their lives.

It is because of the courage of my grandparents, and the hard work of my parents, that I am here today. When I meet young DREAMers, I think of my grandfather and his brave decision to come to America for a better life. When I cast my vote in the Senate, I think of my grandmothers, who were born before women even had the right to vote. And when I share my grandparents’ stories with others, my hope is that families across the country are reminded of their own unique family histories of hard work and perseverance. Our country’s grandparents are amongst our greatest treasures. The knowledge, wisdom, love, and hope they share with their families is what bonds us to our past and gives us the fire to strive for a better tomorrow. I honor my grandparents every day, and in America we should be honoring them daily by sharing their stories and celebrating the diverse backgrounds, histories, cultures, and viewpoints they share with us to make our country stronger and more hopeful.