Who is Your Hero? My Grandfather, Who Was an Immigrant

A photo of my great-grandfather and his family as immigrants coming through Ellis Island.

My name is Alba, and I gave this as my sixth-grade speech. The subject was, “Who is your hero?”

I chose my grandfather. He was an immigrant.


There is a line in the musical “Hamilton” that talks about Marquis de Lafayette, who was from France, and Alexander Hamilton, who was from the Caribbean. It is, “Immigrants. We get the job done.” I am only here because of immigrants. My grandmother is an immigrant from Thailand. My father’s family were immigrants from Palestine. My grandfather especially taught me about my immigrant heritage. He taught me that true Americans can come from everywhere, even the middle east.

My hero is my grandfather. I will call him cedo, because that is how you say grandpa in Arabic. He taught me our family history, that his dad from Palestine was incredibly brave. My cedo’s father fought for America in World War II, and brought back coins from all the places he went. Cedo gave me those coins. Also he taught me a lot of things about being American.

My cedo taught me our family history when I stayed over at his house during the summer. He would read me a history book every night before bed. He wrote that book himself, and poured his heart and soul into it. The book is called “The Arab and The Brit,” because it was about his two parents, a Palestinian man named Nicholas and an English woman named Polly.

Last summer after cedo had chemotherapy, we went to Rochester for the family reunion. There was a lot of different food. There was Kibby, which is a small meat cake. There was Baklava, which is a pistachio and honey dessert. There was tabouli, which is chopped parsley salad. I met my cousins and my uncle (cedo’s brother). We stayed in the lake house that my cedo’s father built. Cedo wanted me to know my heritage, and meet the rest of my Palestinian family.

One story that my Cedo told about why his family came to America is because they stole horses from the Turkish, and the Turks  really did not like that, and wanted to get revenge. Therefore they came to America. That is the funny family story.

The other story is that of Radia, my great-great-grandma (or tata), knew that her children would not get good medical care or education in Palestine. She wanted her children to be healthy and well educated, so she insisted that the family move to America. My great-grandpa, Nicholas, was six when he rode the boat to America. He landed at Ellis Island, and our family name, which used to be written in Arabic, became the one that I have today.

Even though cedo was the son of immigrants, he grew up as an all American kid. He went to public schools and was very athletic as well as studying hard. He played football, even getting on to his college football team at Lehigh University, where he was a running back. His teammates remember him as a hard worker with a strict schedule who got good grades. He and his football team won the football championship, the Lambert Cup. He was always proud of that team. He was also close to his family growing up, and he thought it was important that I was too.

A year ago Cedo was diagnosed with cancer and he never gave up, even when he had surgery on his spine. I waited for him at the hospital all day when he was in surgery. When I saw him afterwards he seemed fine, a little tired, but he was very happy to see me. He was strong all the way through. He showed me how brave people are who face cancer. Despite fighting cancer, he died in January.

I saw all of my relatives again at his funeral. I could tell that I was not the only one who thought of cedo as a hero. They told so many good stories about him, most about how he never stopped working hard and that he always stayed strong .

The last thing cedo told me was to never forget about the family’s heritage and that my family would always be with me. I will remember his words. I will always be proud of being an American, and the child of immigrants.

My name is Alba. I am twelve years old, and my family is Palestinian, Thai, and Caucasian.

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Published on: March 24, 2017

Filed Under: Articles, Essays & Poems, Non-Fiction/Memoir

Views: 1571

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2 Responses to Who is Your Hero? My Grandfather, Who Was an Immigrant

  1. Avatar MaryBeth says:

    Touching! This young writer has an understanding about life that many adults never grasp.
    Alba, I’m glad you were able to have time with your grandfather; it sounds like he was a great man. I enjoyed reading your article and am looking forward to reading your future writing!

    • Avatar Sarah Ratliff says:


      Thank you for your comment. We agree that Alba is wise and caring beyond her years. We will share your comments with her mother. Thank you again!
      Sarah, Co-founder, Multiracial Media

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