Fourteen years ago, my family and I came to the United States with nothing but a couple hundred dollars. We came to this country in hopes of finally escaping the ethnic cleansing and genocide that we faced in our home country of Bosnia. We knew that if we wanted a better life, we had to come to America.
Fortunately enough for us, we arrived in a nation that welcomed us with open arms. Thanks to President Bill Clinton -- who not only helped put an end to the bloodshed, but also offered Bosnians the opportunity to become Americans -- my family was given a second chance at life, and we seized it.
We settled in Des Moines, Iowa, and I have to admit, it was very, very difficult to assimilate to a new culture. Nonetheless, we pushed through the adversity as a family -- knowing that we were incredibly privileged to live in the greatest country in the world. And slowly, but surely, we got used to our new life in the United States and were able to take advantage of the gifts this country had to offer. For example, my sister and I were able to get a quality K-12 education and adopt the American values taught to us at school.
While I got my American education, my father still didn't fully understand English. And because he was passionate about politics and wanted to learn more about the American political system, I became his full-time news translator. That, incidentally, ignited my own passion for politics. In fact, it led me to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and eventually, intern at the Democratic National Committee. Interning at the DNC seemed like the natural thing for me to do. After all, it was the Democratic party that President Clinton belonged to and it was the Democratic party that showed they genuinely cared about my family and the struggles immigrants face every day.
While getting involved in politics and advocating for smart U.S. immigration policy was my way of giving back to this country, the entire Bosnian-American community has made immense contributions as well, and in different ways. From serving our nation overseas to protecting our streets at home, Bosnian-Americans, like so many other immigrants, have fully assimilated and are active citizens in our communities.
Still, every now and then, I can't help but think about my past in Bosnia. I know that thousands and thousands of immigrants share stories of hardship like mine, and as such, I feel so thankful to find myself in a country like the United States where it's possible to achieve the American Dream, regardless of where you are born.
Throughout the month of June, Democrats have proudly celebrated Immigrant Heritage Month. It's my hope that we continue doing that -- not just for the rest of this month, but for the rest of the year. Immigrants have long made a positive difference in this country and have helped bring to fruition a brighter future.
My name is Elvir Klempic, and I am proud to be Bosnian-American.
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