How to sort out the good and the bad in our ‘American Dream’

Nancy Anderson, MBJ contributing columnist

Nancy Anderson, MBJ contributing columnist

Saturday morning. Not a cloud in the sky. It had been a cool start to the morning. We pull our chairs into the sunshine. A sigh of relief.

This was a scary and tragic week from terrorism to mushroom clouds to the insanity of an Elvis impersonator. And we thought we were completely safe in little Mississippi!

The world has changed. How do I sort out the good from the bad? How do I remain open to new people and cautious about them at the same time?

As a professor, you shouldn’t have favorites, but I do. Ulanbek came to Mississippi College a few years ago. He was from Kyrgyzstan. He was Muslim. And he was one of the dearest young men who ever walked through my door. When he first started in my class, his English was atrocious. He struggled, but he worked hard.

I attended a dinner at The Raindrop Turkish House. This is a local interfaith group started after 9/11 to create dialogue among people of various religions. Ulanbek was there. We had the opportunity to have a long conversation about his life, his experiences and his thoughts on America. He came from a poor village, but his entire family saved and supported him so he could attend school in the United States.

When I asked him, “Why America?”, he explained it this way. He said that there is no British dream or French dream or Canadian dream, but there is, still, the American Dream. And when he said, “American Dream,” his eyes lit up. And I saw through his eyes the desire of every immigrant who comes here — the desire for a chance at success, the desire for a free society, the desire for something better.

But he also expressed confusion and dismay about his American peers. After all, he was a devout Muslim with a strict moral code. And I saw our failings through his eyes.

Ulanbek finished his time with us. I was quite sad to see him go. He never appeared on an FBI wanted poster. He didn’t leave behind death and destruction. He didn’t even leave with ill feelings toward America or Americans. Instead, he left me a better person.

Saturday morning. Not a cloud in the sky. As we sit in the sun by our little pond, a new family of geese swims by. Our new neighbors. A totally different species, but what joy to behold!

And I’m left to ask, “How do I sort out the good from the bad?”

» Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Ridgeland — (601) 991-3158. She is also an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is nanderson@newper.com, and her website is www.newper.com.

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