One year ago, on March 5, I became an American citizen, just a few miles away from the Alamo.
It is only fitting that this special milestone in my life also happened just three days after the anniversary of Texas’ Independence, because I found in Texas what I was looking for in America. To me, Texas has become similar to these little enclaves of foreign culture that you find in big U.S. cities such as Little Italy or Little Korea. It has become my “Little America.”
Let me explain.
Every year, millions of people around the world dream of and try to move to the United States — just like I did nine years ago. In 2018, 23 million participated in the Green Card lottery, up from 13.2 million in 2009—including 70,964 and 39,806, respectively, from my native country, France. Quotas for H1B visas, which allow a company to sponsor foreigners to work in the U.S., are often filled up in just a few days. Without a doubt, many more people try to secure another form of visa or dream of the day when they can come to America.
In Texas, the state I now proudly call home, 17.1 percent of the population was foreign born in 2017. Among these, 37.1 percent were naturalized. Texas, like America, attracts a lot of migration, whether Americans from other states, immigrants from abroad, or immigrants who first established in another U.S. state. All of us were not lucky enough to be born in Texas, but most of us got here as fast as we could.
America remains the number one destination for immigrants in pursuit of a better life. But why America? What makes it easier to succeed here?
What some U.S. natives don’t seem to realize is that for people striving to find a better life by being productive members of society, the United States — and Texas in particular — still offers the best chance to pursue your happiness. The reasons are simple.
The United States was founded on the concept of individual rights — a respect for life, property, equality before the law—and distrust of a government that has the capacity to grow too large and try to curtail these rights. Rugged individualism, by definition, demands the respect of individual rights and carries the assumption that each individual has the ability to succeed — as opposed to thinking we are weak creatures who need help from the government. A government limited to protecting individual rights — not creating new rights or legislating how we all should live — not only conveys trust in individuals, but also allows more opportunities by refraining from creating barriers.
In Texas, especially, these principles have served as the foundation of a successful model. The Texas Model of lower taxes, fewer regulations, and fewer frivolous lawsuits opens the door to more opportunities for all to prosper.
Make no mistake: you have to work for your opportunity. George Strake, a Houston oilman, said it best: “Everyone’s welcome here, so long as you’re willing to pull the wagon and not just sit in it.” More than in many other countries, your path to success is in your own hands — it does not depend on government’s capacity to take from Paul to make Peter successful.
In his article “Texas Forever: How I Found the American Dream in the Lone Star State,” former New Yorker and editor-at-large of the New York Observer Ryan Holiday wrote “To me, the American Dream has always been relatively simple: The ability to live one’s life on one’s terms. That is: financially, recreationally, personally, and creatively. Texas offers that.”
I, too, have found my American Dream — in Texas. And every year at the beginning of March, I will remember as an American citizen both the principles that founded this great nation — in the words of philosopher Ayn Rand, an immigrant herself, “the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world” — and the fact that these principles are still alive in the great state of Texas.
And I promise, seeing Texas as my “Little America” is the only time I’ll ever call anything Texas “little.”