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Key to success: Vision Key to success: Passion Key to success: Perseverance Key to success: Preparation Key to success: Courage Key to success: Integrity Key to success: The American Dream Keys to success homepage More quotes on Passion More quotes on Vision More quotes on Courage More quotes on Integrity More quotes on Preparation More quotes on Perseverance More quotes on The American Dream

James Michener

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist

The other is that I do think we have paid less attention to the values of our society than we should have. Through the church, through great education, through our newspapers, through the agencies that we have. I think that a nation that loses touch with its essential values, the values which characterize it and determine it, is really playing a very dangerous game because the time comes when you forget them. And when you forget them, you lose them. And when you lose them, you may lose your forward impetus. Let me be very frank about that. From what I know, and the wonderful fact that we are a continental country, from ocean to ocean, we are all that that implies. All the great resources. I am quite confident that we are good until about the year 2050. I think we can absorb errors, and we can absorb civil disturbance, and we can absorb defeats as we did with Vietnam. We can absorb a lot of knocks. I think we are safe, but I'm not so sure after that. If there were to be a continuing provision of generations that did not know what America is all about or did not have tough rigorous inner discipline, or did not produce goods that will keep the country rich and prosperous -- we might be in very serious trouble.
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Norman Mineta

Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation

Norman Mineta: Well, my dad had come as a 14-year-old from Japan in 1902, and he worked for Speckles Sugar Company down in Speckles, near Salinas. Then in about 1910, they moved him from Speckles in Salinas to San Martín, just south of San José, to set up a sugar beet operation there, and he did that. Then, in 1917, he was part of that influenza epidemic, maybe 1918, so he ended up in county hospital for six, seven months, and as a result of that, they said that he couldn't go back to farming, it was too strenuous, so he moved into San José, doing a number of odd jobs. One of them, one day he was interpreting in court, and these fellows came up to him and said, "How would you like to go into the insurance business?" And he said, "Well, I know nothing about insurance." So they said, "We would train you." So actually, in 1920, he started in the insurance business. So that was the setting of the family in the early twenties. In 1928, he built a home in San José, and then I was the youngest of five children, and I was born in 1931. So for us, life was pretty idyllic. Every summer we had our vacations, Lake Tahoe, Santa Cruz, Crater Lake, Arizona, Grand Canyon, wherever. It was a family of seven, and it was just a strong family, and we just had a great time growing up.
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George Mitchell

Presidential Medal of Freedom

George Mitchell: My mother was an immigrant from Lebanon to the United States. She came when she was 18 years old in 1920. My father was the orphaned son of immigrants to the United States from Ireland. My father never knew his parents. His mother died -- we're not sure -- either at or shortly after his birth, and he and all of his siblings were placed in orphanages in the Boston area. So my father grew up in an orphanage in Boston. He was then adopted by an elderly childless couple from Maine, who gave him the name of Mitchell. He moved to Maine, and there he met my mother and was married. My parents had no education. My mother couldn't read or write English. She worked nights in a textile mill. My father was a janitor at a local college in our hometown. But they were part of that generation of Americans who had a very deep commitment to the education of their children. They had, really, an exaggerated notion of the value of education. But their life's goal was to see to it that their children received the education that they never got, and in that, they were successful. They had five children, all of whom went on to graduate from college, and several of us have graduate degrees as well.
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George Mitchell

Presidential Medal of Freedom

The power I most enjoyed exercising was when I presided at naturalization ceremonies. They were what we would call citizenship ceremonies, where a group of people who had come from every part of the world, who had gone through the required procedures, gathered before me in a federal courtroom in Maine, and there I administered to them the oath of allegiance to the United States, and by the power vested in me under our Constitution and law, I made them Americans. It was always a very moving ceremony for me, because of my own personal experience, my mother having been an immigrant from Lebanon, and my father being the orphaned son of immigrants from Ireland, and I enjoyed very much those ceremonies. And after them, I made it a point to speak personally with each of the new citizens, individually or in family groups. I asked them where they came from, how they came, why they came. The stories were all inspiring. I wish that every American youngster had been with me to hear people talk about their experiences. Most of us are Americans by an accident of birth. Each of these people became an American by an act of free will, often at great risk and cost to themselves. Their answers were different, reflecting their different countries of origin. They literally came from every part of the world. But there were common themes, and they were best summarized by a young Asian man who, when I asked him why he came, replied in very slow and halting English, "I came," he said, "because here in America, everybody has a chance." And you think about the fact that a young man who had been an American for just a few minutes, who could barely speak English, was able to sum up the meaning of our country in a single sentence: In America, everybody has a chance. That is, of course, the distinguishing characteristic of the United States in all of human history, the first true meritocracy, the place where people can move forward, get ahead, whatever their background or family status, if they are willing to work hard and if they're lucky enough to get a good education. So, for me, that young Asian man's words stand out as a symbol of the meaning of our country. America is freedom and opportunity.
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