5 MAKERS Share What America Means to Them

In honor of Independence Day, we celebrate independent women everywhere. Particularly, we want to highlight five MAKERS who speak on their personal appreciation for the USA. Some moved to the U.S. as children, others were sent abroad in their early adult years. Though she was born in the US, Reshma Saujani's parents were Ugandan refugees. 

These women remind us what freedom we have in America, and how we can leverage that liberty to challenge boundaries and make our country all the better. 

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Diane Von Furstenberg came to New York at 22, after marrying Prince Egon of Furstenberg. At the time, she was working for an Italian fashion industrialist.  “I went to see the man that I worked for and I said, ‘Listen I’m moving to America and I’m going to get married and have a child, but I really really want to work. Would you allow me to make a few samples from your factory? I’m going to try to sell them in America.’ And that’s what I did.”

Zainab Salbi grew up in Iraq, where her parents were part of Saddam Hussein’s "inner circle." In 1990, when Salbi was 19, her parents sent her to Chicago to get her out of the country. Years later, she saw a story about rape survivors in Bosnia, and she vowed to do something to help women in wartorn countries. She started Women for Women International, a humanitarian organization that runs a raining program to help women earn an independent living. She remembers the feeling of, “Seeing something that is unjust, and being in a country where you can do something about it. In America, I had the choice to do something about it. That really was the triggering factor.”

24th U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao was born in Taiwan. Her family took a cargo ship to New York in 1961, when she was eight years old. “[My parents] had this conviction that this country was fair and just, and that if we worked hard, we would have a better future.”

Founder of Girls Who Code Reshma Saujani told MAKERS, “My parents came here as political refugees from Uganda. My father was watching television and Idi Amin who was the dictator there in Uganda, came on and said that all of the Indians in the country had 90 days to leave the country. The United States was the only country that let them in, so my parents are probably the two most patriotic people that you will ever meet.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Latina elected to Congress appreciates one of the sweeter aspects of America: “Being 8 years old when we left Cuba, I remember one of the best moments of coming to the United States was when it got to be Halloween…my brother and I were sold on the United States after October 31st.” More seriously, being born in Cuba makes Ileana all the more committed to democracy. “The ability to speak freely, to criticize your government, to change democracy through the ballot box and not through bullets, those are real concepts to me.”