American Dreamer, Herculean Worker

My grandfather, Roberto Hercules Gándola, has instilled within me the fortitude to take on unfamiliar challenges. He has continually demonstrated courage, from the days of his childhood in an Argentine orphanage, to later defying a totalitarian government, and ultimately immigrating to the United States. In my own life course, I have tried to follow the lead of my grandfather, who exemplifies strength and integrity. At a young age my grandfather was placed in a somewhat remote farm orphanage, where he faced a lack of familial love and support. Realizing he would need to take care of himself, my grandfather took matters into his own hands. Although he enjoyed classroom learning, he was particularly drawn to farm labor, where his meticulous tendencies earned him admiration. Later, he recognized that he would need a practical skill in order to sustain himself and eventually support a family. Becoming a machinist apprentice, he learned the nuts and bolts of manufacturing. Though machinists were in high demand, Roberto had to operate within an unstable political climate under the Peron regime. Corrupt economic policies, unfair taxes, and severe inflation pushed many Argentines out of work. Those who refused to pay allegiance to the Peronist regime often disappeared. Roberto refused to accept Juan Peron in order to receive the privileges that his own hard work should bring. Due to his disobedience, Roberto was left unemployed, unable to secure housing, and at risk of being harassed by the Peronists. It was under these circumstances that my grandparents fled Argentina for the United States. Roberto and and my grandmother Hilda immigrated to Los Angeles during the late 1950s, and initially struggled with a new language and culture, and the lack of a support network. With the will and desire to succeed and the freedom to change his circumstances, Roberto applied his understanding of design and machining at a small manufacturing firm. It did not take long for Roberto and Hilda to build a new life in the spirit of the American Dream. Los Angeles in particular had a depth and breadth of opportunities for their children. They encouraged and supported each of their five children through college, and those children in turn have become advocates of higher education. In a practical sense, I have learned from my grandfather the shortcomings of social programs in promoting the welfare and well being of children. This galvanized my interest in teaching at an inner city school in Washington D.C., where many of the youth are struggling to succeed. It is because of my grandparents, who lacked basic freedoms for much of their lives, that I have such an appreciation for democracy and liberty. These guiding points have helped both my wife and myself resolve to pursue as much education as we can, and to never take for granted the freedoms and opportunities that are afforded us here in the United States. 

Guide that inspired this poem: 


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