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July 2010


  My dear friends, colleagues, clients and students:

We hope you are enjoying your summer.

We have decided to take a little break from the weighty articles on career advancement and pay homage to this great land of ours, the United States of America. With our hectic pace of life, we need to be reminded of this fact at least once a year!

In this essay, you may be able to catch a glimpse of America and Americans, as seen through the eyes of tourists and immigrants. We may or may not like all that we hear, but this is a slice of perception. Some of it is from the pages of my personal memory diaries. We hope you find the essay completely free of partisan values and political leanings.

In some respects, this essay, What's Really So Wonderful About America, is autobiographical. The writer landed in the USA from Bombay, India at age 23, on September 3, 1963, forty-seven years ago. He had less than $80 in his pocket, and knew not a soul. All his life's belongings were in two cardboard suitcases, one containing used books, another old clothes. The plan was to study for a Master's degree in Engineering, with money borrowed month to month. Most of his dreams have been realized. As someone once said: "Only an immigrant can really appreciate America." He has been a naturalized U.S. citizen for thirty-two years!

Keep your feedback coming. Please feel free to share this newsletter with your friends, remembering to give us the due credit.

Until we meet again through the magic of e-mail, we want to wish you and your loved ones, a very meaningful and enjoyable Fourth of July (Independence Day), and Peace! Love! Shalom!

Don Sutaria, MS, IE (Prof.)
Founder, President & Life-Work Coach

  What's Really So Wonderful About America  
  by Don Sutaria

When tourists and immigrants view Americans they see hustle and bustle, excitement, commercialism, objectivity, practical ability, organizational ability, humor, cheerfulness, faith in education, independence, self-confidence, friendliness, appreciativeness, generally without racial prejudices, and last but not least, love for the almighty dollar (sometimes leading to misplaced priorities in life).

"But I fail to understand why in the richest country in the world there are poor and hungry people. Also, why are the old people in the USA not taken care of properly by their children, relatives and communities; they look so lonely and sad."
After a lot of cajoling for years, my mother Dina and father Phiroz visited America in the summer of 1976 (the Bicentennial Year), to celebrate my eldest son Norman's first birthday. Here are some of their impressions:

Holding up a shiny penny, my mother Dina said: "America is a God-fearing nation; just look at the inscription on their coins, 'In God We Trust.' I am proud my son is living in America."

My mother continues at another time, seeing very old people crossing Broadway on the Upper West Side, all alone and lonely: "I like everything about America, and especially Americans, who are so friendly and open. But I fail to understand why in the richest country in the world there are poor and hungry people. Also, why are the old people in the USA not taken care of properly by their children, relatives and communities; they look so lonely and sad!" (Real food for thought for America to seriously rethink its priorities.)

At a highway rest stop, driving to Vermont, on seeing an American family with young children at a picnic table, having a happy time, full of laughter, my mother says: "Why do so many American families go through divorces; it is beyond me."

A few days before leaving, my father Phiroz said to me: "The perpetual youthfulness and optimism of Americans constantly amazes me! There is so much freedom of speech. In America, if a politician goes outside his boundaries, he is quickly and openly taken to task. In other countries, most indiscretions are quickly swept under the rug. That is a great credit to Americans."

Although I am a dark-skinned immigrant, I can honestly say to you and my family members that I have not experienced any major racial discrimination in the world of work. Perhaps a little age-related discrimination during the past few years, but in my opinion, it has nothing to do with race. My two sons, Dale and Norman, have asked me this question about racial discrimination several times, but I have always given them this same consistent answer. Even a lawyer friend specializing in employment law has told me that since I had crossed the six-figure salary barrier several years ago, it is living proof that there was no race-related job discrimination in my case. Only in America!

"..65% of all Americans said their success depended on forces within their control..."
So, without overgeneralizing, what is an American? Bradford Smith, in Why We Behave Like Americans, has some noteworthy comments:

"I can't make you out," Henry James has Mrs. Tristram say to the American, "whether you are very simple or very deep." This is a dilemma which has often confronted outside observers. Usually they conclude that Americans are childish. But one cannot call one society mature, another immature. Each has its own logic.

What is it then that makes Americans recognizable wherever they go? It is not, we hope, the noisy boasting, critical, money-scattering impression made by one class of tourists. The only thing to be said in their defense is that, released from the social restraints which would make them act very differently at home, they are bent on making the most of their freedom.

Americans carry with them an appearance which is more a result of attitude than of clothing. This attitude combines a lack of class consciousness, a somewhat jaunty optimism and an inquisitiveness which in combination look to outsiders like naivete. Also, Americans exhibit a liking for facts and figures, an alertness more muscular and ocular than intellectual, and above all a desire to be friendly.

To boil it down to the briefest summary, American characteristics are the product of response to an unusually competitive situation combined with unusual opportunity.

Americans are a peculiar people. They work like mad, then give away much of what they earn. They play until they are exhausted, and call this a vacation. They love to think of themselves as tough-minded business people, yet they are push-overs for any hard luck story. They have the biggest of everything including government, automobiles and debts, yet they are afraid of bigness. They are always trying to chip away at big government, big business, big unions, big influence. They like to think of themselves as little people, average people, and they would like to cut everything down to their own size. Yet they boast of their tall buildings, high mountains, long rivers, big meals. Theirs is the best family, the best neighborhood, the best state, the best country, the best world, the best heaven. They also have the most traffic deaths, the most waste, and the most racketeering.

When they meet, they are always telling each other, "Take it easy," then they rush off like crazy in opposite directions. They play games as if they were fighting a war, and fight wars as if playing a game. They marry more, go broke more often, and make more money than any other people. They love children, animals, gadgets, mother, work, excitement, noise, nature, television shows, comedy, installment buying, fast motion, spectator sports, the underdog, the flag, Christmas, jazz, shapely women and muscular men, classical recordings, crowds, comics, cigarettes, warm houses in winter and cool ones in summer, thick beefsteaks, coffee, ice cream, informal dress, plenty of running water, do-it-yourself, and a working week trimmed to forty hours or less.

They crowd their highways with cars while complaining about the traffic, flock to movies and television while griping about the quality and commercials, go to church but don't care much for sermons, and drink too much in the hope of relaxing -- only to find themselves stimulated to even bigger dreams.

There is, of course, no typical American. But if you added them all together and then divided it by the total population, the average American would look something like what has been portrayed.

"Never forget, Americans, that yours is a spiritual country."
A recent article in The New York Times by John Leland, Why America Sees the Silver Lining, discusses the faith that we are all on the verge of joining the favored class ourselves. In a global poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2002, 65% of all Americans said their success depended on forces within their control, more than double the percentage in old world countries like Italy and Germany, and triple that of India, Turkey or Pakistan. The Pew Center polled 38,000 people in 44 countries.

Stanley Fish, a dean at the University of Illinois in Chicago, says "If Americans feel that paradise is not over the next hill, then it is over the hill after that. This optimism also belongs to the nation's population of immigrants, who are both consumers and producers of the myth."

Gregory Rodriguez, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a policy institute in Washington, states that "America is addicted to a sense of new beginnings. We're not really a mature culture, and newcomers are an integral part of this process of becoming. Someone can tell us it's morning in America, and we seem to need that to go forward. Stagnation is the worst thing that can happen. For immigrants, especially those on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, optimism functions as a consolation for what they have had to leave behind. Even if their dream didn't pay off, the optimism is that which seems to make it all worthwhile."

The most wonderful thing about America is its people. Their deepest values are spiritual, not materialistic. It may be hard to believe when you see evidence of materialism all around you, but it is true! It took me three early years, 1963 to 1966, to come to this conclusion, and understand this puzzling dilemma.

Since I was born in the Orient (Bombay, India), it was drilled into me like a mantra that the East is spiritualistic and the West (especially America) is materialistic. Nothing can be further from the truth and actually the reverse is true! America's heritage is spiritual and no one should forget that, in spite of strong cultural currents dragging us in the opposite direction.

The major point I am making in this essay is summed up so beautifully by Carlos Romulo, a Pulitzer Prize winner. One of the first presidents of the U.N. General Assembly and Chairman of the U.N. Security Council was Philippine General Carlos Romulo. In his farewell speech to America, Romulo stated: "Never forget, Americans, that yours is a spiritual country. Yes, I know you're a practical people. Like others, I've marveled at your factories, your skyscrapers and your arsenals. But underlying everything else is the fact that America began as a God-loving, God-fearing, God-worshipping people."

Don Sutaria, also known as "Career Doctor Don", is Founder and President of CareerQuest. He has been quoted frequently in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, on radio and television and has taught at various colleges. He is the author of Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career is a Pathway to Your Soul!).

Don Sutaria, M.S., I.E. (Prof.)   
Phone: (908) 686-8400     Fax: (908) 686-8400 (on request)     Cell: (908) 377-9015   
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