Guest Opinion: Making their way to America

As we prepare for the upcoming holidays, we must be grateful for what we have and focus on our needs rather than fixate on what we want and crave. Being thankful starts with an appreciation of why our families came to America in the first place — our freedoms and opportunities.

Legendary singer-song writer Neil Diamond hit single; “America” was performed in 1981 to help welcome home 52 American hostages that Iranian militants held for 444 days at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. All they needed was their freedom from captivity.

Today, we hope and pray that Hamas terrorists release the hostages imprisoned in Gaza.

“On the boats and on the planes … Got a dream they’ve come to share … Only want to be free … They’re coming to America!” are key parts of Diamond’s America.

Diamond, who is fighting debilitating Parkinson disease, is the grandson of Polish Jewish immigrants who made their way to the United States after World War I. It was 1918 — the outbreak of the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed five million people worldwide.

Not everyone who came to America reached Diamond’s stardom. Millions migrated to our country for a better and safer life as well as our freedoms. They wanted to learn, gain experience and pursue their dreams. They realize they must work hard and put in long hours.

For example, in the 1890s, William Henry Blewett, a tin miner in Cornwall, England, brought his young wife and baby daughter (our grandmother) by boat and train to Butte, Montana, for safer working conditions and higher pay. At the time, Cornish mine tunnels extended under the ocean floor and those seawalls sometimes collapsed drowning workers.

Then, 60 years ago, Salvador and Rosario Delgadillo came to U.S. from Guadalajara, Mexico, to raise their eight children. They landed in Tacoma in 1978 for better opportunities and the means to buy their family home. Salvador worked as longshoreman and save enough to fund his sons and daughters’ college educations.

At about the same time, Robert and Margaret Deans sold their house in the Dublin, Ireland, neighborhood where they grew up. They boarded a plane with their eight children and flew to Vancouver (Wa.). Robert found work with Boeing, and they purchased their family home.

Robert died at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic; however, Margaret, who turns 90 on New Years Day, continues to knit hats, mittens, and booties for charities which help parents with newborns and toddlers.

There are others who brought refugees to America. Jim Collins was a U.S. Navy Seabee during the Vietnam War and assigned to camps near Da Nang and the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Vietnam. He is multi-lingual and taught language to Americans and Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.

Jim and his wife, Colleen, lived in Camas and adopted two Vietnamese children in 1974. Over the next 10 years, they received almost 50 Vietnamese refugees in their home.

This is the time of year we put our “wants and desires” on Christmas shopping lists. Too often we have difficulty distinguishing our wants from our needs. Our lists should include helping those in need.

While some people break the law and trash, loot and criminalize America, we cannot let that happen. Our communities must be safe and clean.

Likewise, we cannot allow those who seek to silence citizens with opposing views to succeed.

The United States of America was built on freedoms and respect for our laws and fellow citizens regardless of our station in life. No one can be above the law and equal justice must be fairly applied to all.

That is why people come to America and earn their citizenship.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver, Wa. He can be contacted at