Statement by Congressman Augustus F. Hawkins
April 13, 1988
Mr. Speaker, on April 13, 1988, Nick loannidis, a constituent of mine in Huntington Park, California will be celebrating his twelfth year as a citizen of the United States. To help celebrate this proud and unique occasion, a number of local community and fraternal organizations will come and express their support, including the Downey Elks Lodge No. 2020.
On October 14, 1969 Nick loannidis, known as “Nick the Greek”, immigrated to America from a small island in North Greece. He came to California, and settled in the city of Huntington Park. A tailor by trade, Nick got a job with the May Company the second day he arrived in the United States. Because of his special talents, the company hired an interpreter for him, and within 2 years he had saved enough money to open his own tailor shop in Huntington Park. Once he got established at his place of business he applied for his citizenship papers and was sworn in as an American citizen.
Nick’s celebration is rooted in the sincere pride he has for America and its tradition of liberty and freedom. Last year, in recognition of the great contributions of America’s immigrants, the Congress designated October 28, 1987 as “National Immigrants Day”. This Act was passed on that particular day and month to coincide with the Statue of Liberty dedication by France to the United States in October, 1886. The resolution reads as follows:
Immigrants came to America for a number of reasons, in search of freedom to worship, to escape political tyranny, or to flee from the wrenching grip of poverty. Others traded a labor term for freedom as indentured servants. And perhaps in our nation’s darkest hour, slaves from Africa were bought and sold to supply labor for Southern plantations.
An indication of the great racial and cultural diversity of our nation is rooted ironically in the discovery of America. The name “America” was bestowed to this continent by a German mapmaker, Martin Waldseemuller, to honor an Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. The three ships which discovered America sailed under a Spanish flag, were commanded by an Italian sea captain, and included in their crews an Englishman, an Irishman, a Jew and a Black — Pedro Alonzo Nino who navigated Columbus’ flagship, the Nina.
Every ethnic minority has served to build and strengthen this great nation. Immigrants were largely responsible for our turn of the century transformation into a world industrial and agricultural giant. A report by Charles 0. Paullin from the Dictionary of American Biography revealed the tremendous contributions of immigrants from the 18th and 19th Century in the following arts and sciences: 20 percent of the businessmen, 20 percent of the scholars and scientists, 23 percent of the painters, 24 percent of the engineers, 28 percent of the architects, 29 percent of the clergymen, 46 percent of the musicians and 61 percent of the actors were of foreign births.
As John F. Kennedy observed in his book, A Nation of Immigrants adjustment to the new land presented a pressing challenge to the immigrant, but has enriched us as a society, and strengthened our national determination:
The former President went on to write that our nation’s immigrants reminded every American that:
Indeed, today John Kennedy would be proud of the great strides we have taken to improve the quality of life for all our citizens. Poet Walt Whitman, whose poems celebrated the dignity and freedom of the common man wrote,
It gives me special pleasure to honor Nick loannidis in Congress and all the participants at the open house celebration on April 13th. Without question, this celebration of America and its rich traditions, inspires us as individuals; rejoices in the beauty of our ethnic and cultural diversity; unites us as a nation; and offers a beacon of hope to future generations of Americans to dream, to strive, to contribute, and to succeed.