I agree with Ginger Rogers and as the saying goes, Summer would not be summer, without ice cream. And July 25th is National Ice Cream Day which give me an opportunity to write about two immigrants whose company makes my favorite ice cream. I love Haagen-Dazs ice cream much to the detriment of my continuous diet.
The founders of the company are Reuben and Rose Mattus. Reuben was born in Poland and arrived at the Port of New York at age 9 with his widowed mother in 1921. Rose, born in Manchester, UK also arrived in 1921 at age 4 with her parents who originally emigrated from Poland.
Reuben started in the ice cream business at age 10, helping his uncle who was in the Italian lemon-ice business in Brooklyn. By the late 1920s, the family began making ice pops, chocolate-covered ice cream bars and sandwiches under the name Senator Frozen Products. Reuben and Rose met in high school. After high school, Rose went to work as a bookkeeper at the Senator plant in 1934 and they married. In 1959 Reuben decided to form a new ice cream company with a foreign sounding name. They invented the Danish sounding Haagen-Dazs as a tribute to Denmark’s exemplary treatment of its Jews during World War II. Their ice cream company proved to incredibly successful. In 1983 they sold the business to the Pillsbury Company for $70 million.
Due to their hard work, quality products and Rose’s marketing skills the Mattus’ achieved the American dream. I leave you with one ice cream thought: Life is like ice cream, enjoy it before it melts.
This Fourth of July is special to me because one of my clients will be at the Seattle Center’s Armory Building receiving her United States citizenship. She is a lovely and hardworking individual pursuing the American dream. One thing about America is that it has been built on great dreams and in this country we have the opportunity to make our dreams come true. My client will be an asset to our nation and my wish for her is that her dreams come to fruition.
Her excitement at receiving the news of her acceptance as a US citizen is infectious. And it should remind all of us who are Americans just how lucky we are to be a part of this great country.
In the last blog, I showcased first generation immigrants who have contributed to the economic well-being of the United States. Two most notable second generation immigrants (i.e. Americans born to first generation immigrants) are Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, Inc. and Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon. Can you imagine life today without these two companies?
Steve Jobs in addition to co-founding Apple, Inc. is recognized as a pioneer of the microcomputer revolution. He was born on February 24, 1955 to Abdul Fattah Jandali, a young Syrian Muslim immigrant receiving his doctorate in political science at the University of Wisconsin and Joanne Schieble, a German-American student who took a class where Jandali was the teaching assistant. They fell in love, but her parents disapproved of her dating, much less marrying an Arab and a Muslim. She discovered she was pregnant and decided to go to San Francisco and to arrange the birth and adoption of Steve without telling her parents or Jandali.
The baby was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs and they named him Steve Paul Jobs. He felt he was blessed to have them as parents and did not like to have people refer to them as his adoptive parents. He said, “They were my parents 1,000%.”
Ten months after Joanne gave up Steve, she and Jandali married. Her father had died a few months earlier. They had a daughter who in later years established a relationship with her brother. Steve and Jandali never met.
Jeff Bezos, like Steve looks at his adoptive father as his legitimate parent. He was born Jeffrey Preston Jorgenson on January 12, 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His mother Jacklyn Gise Jorgenson was a 17 year old high school student and his father Ted Jorgenson owned a bike shop. The marriage fell apart and age 4, Jeff’s mother married Cuban immigrant Miguel “Mike” Bezos. Shortly after the wedding Mike adopted Jeff.
Mike Bezos came to Miami, Florida from Cuba at age 16, knowing very little English and wearing a jacket his mother had hand sewn from cleaning rags. He first stayed in Camp Matecumbe, a refugee camp in Florida for three weeks. He was sent to Wilmington, DE to attend high school and then received a scholarship to go to the University of Albuquerque. It was there he met and married Jeff’s mother. They then went to Houston, After Mike got a job as an engineer for Exxon. He stayed with the company for 30 years and looks back at his life as living the American Dream.
Jeff Bezos says of his father, Mike, “He had an enormous amount of grit and determination, but he also had incredibly kind and supportive people to help guide him along the way. May Dad’s story really show that people help each other.”
And Jeff Bezos also talks about the importance of immigration. “We’re a nation of immigrants whose diverse backgrounds, ideas, and points of view have helped us build and invent as a nation for over 240 years. No nation is better at harnessing the energies and talents of immigrants. It’s a distinctive competitive advantage for our country – one we should not weaken.” Amen.
Last month, I wrote about the immigrant comedian, Bob Hope. This blog I thought I would write about more contemporary immigrants who have become US citizens and provided economic impetus to the US economy. Some of the most notable first generation immigrants are: Pierre Omidyar from France and founder of E-Bay; Sergy Brin, from Russia and cofounder of Google; Elon Musk from South Africa and founder of Tesla; and Jerry Yang from Taiwan and cofounder of Yahoo!
According to FastCompany.com research shows that immigrants are more likely than native-born people to start their own businesses in their adopted homelands.
Further, a full 25% of all entrepreneurs in the United States are immigrants.
It will be interesting to watch whether America will continue to attract smart, skilled and ambitious individuals who opt to settle in the United States rather than to create businesses in their respective homelands.
My old boss, Congressman Al Swift often talked about the importance of laughter. He always carried around a 3X5 card with punchlines from jokes so he could always fall back on an appropriate story for the occasion to generate a laugh out of friends and constituents. Al was good, but the master in getting a laugh in my lifetime was Bob Hope.
Bob Hope was born on May 29th in Eltham, England and is one of the United States most famous immigrants. His parents brought him and his five brothers to the United States when he was four years old. They traveled in steerage and his mother dressed the boys in three layers of underwear, socks and shirts so she would not have so much to carry. They were processed at the immigration station on Ellis Island on March 30, 1908. They settled in the Cleveland, Ohio area where Hope sold newspapers and gave dancing lessons before embarking on his long career in vaudeville, stage, radio, film and television. He became a US citizen in 1920 when his father became a naturalized citizen.
People my age can remember when he was the host of the Academy Awards (19 times and he received five honorary Oscars over the course of his life). He was known for entertaining US troops during every war from WWII to the Gulf War. For his efforts and talent in making people laugh, he was the first person to be recognized as an “honorary veteran of the United States Armed Forces.” In addition, he received the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Bob Hope died in 2003, but he was given one last honor on October 12, 2010 when the Bob Hope Memorial Library at Ellis Island was dedicated. It was a great tribute to a man who truly lived the American Dream. He joked, “I came to America at age four when I found out I couldn’t be king.”