Truth be told, the US that we know today was built by immigrant hands.
When you look at the landmark events, inventions and technological breakthroughs that have shaped America, it’s plain to see that most of them would not have happened without immigrants. If we exclude the early settlers, even in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, some immigrants have changed the course of American history. When we look back, their legacies shine bright not just in the US, but globally.
A colossal figure, Tesla’s contribution to the post-industrial-revolution world and subsequently modern machination is unquestionable. It’s only natural that he became the eponymous inspiration for Elon Musk’s venture.
Born in 1856 in Smiljan, a small Croatian village, back when the area was still part of the Austrian Empires. After a brief glitch in his career due to movement, dropping out of school and his father’s death, Tesla began teaching at his old school in Gospic and in 1881 moved to Budapest. It was here where he started working for the telephone exchange — his first brush with modern technology.
Soon with a relocation to Paris, would follow a position in the Continental Edison Company. When his manager was transferred to the United States, he insisted that Tesla go with him.
This was how the serial inventor came to the United States of America, landing in New York City in 1884. Tesla quit his job at Continental Edison Company soon after, and started Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1891, which was the same year that he patented the Tesla Coil.
Tesla passed in 1937, leaving behind a rich legacy as one of the most celebrated inventors of all time and one of the most famous immigrants in American history.
When you hear the word twentieth century scientist the face of Albert Einstein appears almost instantly. If there is one world famous Physicist in the modern world, he is it.
His immigration, though, was hardly ceremonious. In the early thirties, the persecution of Jews in Germany was picking up and in 1933, the government passed a law against any Jews holding official positions. This included professorship of universities. Soon after a bounty of $5,000 was put out for Albert Einstein — the Jew. It was the same year Hitler officially came to power.
Immigration or imprisonment — those were the two doors that lay ahead. While universities all over the world sought to bring Einstein on board, Einstein decided to settle down at the Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey. Few years later, Einstein wrote to then President Franklin D. Roosevelt about the looming threat of the Nazi forces. There were also traits of encouragement from him to start the atomic bomb project in this letter — which later led to the development of the world’s first nuclear weapons.
In 1940, Einstein officially gained his U.S. citizenship. He passed in 1955, in Princeton, NJ, remaining vocal about nuclear disarmament once the war ended.
Once an Austrian citizen to a former Nazi father, who Arnold has often gone on to label “abusive”. This in itself suggests to how interesting his story and how great his rise has been. Arnold also served a year in the Austrian Army immediately after turning 18. He was, by then, already competing in the professional body-building circuit.
While still in service, he won the Junior Mr. Europe and was also voted the “best-built man of Europe.” He came in second the first time but it opened up an opportunity to move to London with his next trainer.
London gave him stability. The following year, he won the Mr. Universe contest — the youngest to do so, and followed it up with similar glory the next year as well. He moved to the US in 1968, at the age of 21. Schwarzenegger became a naturalized U.S. citizen on September 17, 1983.
Then the movies came calling when he was chosen to play the title role in Hercules in New York in 1970. Defying all odds, he became the one of the biggest movie stars in the world in the nineties. Parallelly, a career in politics bloomed.
In 2003, he was elected the Governor of California — a living embodiment of the American Dream.
In 2017, she was ranked the 2nd most powerful woman once more on the Forbes list of The 19 Most Powerful Women in Business. A constant on that list, Indra Nooyi was born in Madras, India on October 28, 1955. After receiving a degree from the Madras Christian College and a Post-Graduate Diploma from the Indian Institute of Management, in 1978, Nooyi moved to the US to pursue a master’s degree in Public and Private Management in 1980 at Yale.
Nooyi, who joined PepsiCo in 1994, was named the CEO of the company in 2006. During her tenure, the company’s sales grew 80%. Nooyi served as CEO for 12 years, 7 years longer than the average CEO tenure at large companies according to an Equilar study. In 2018, Nooyi was named one of the “Best CEOs In The World” by the CEOWORLD magazine.
She has also been a strong voice for the development of Connecticut as a co-director of the Connecticut-based non-profit organization AdvanceCT. In 2008, Nooyi was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report.
If there is one name that could carry the title of a media mogul, it is that of Rupert Murdoch’s. Born in Melbourne in 1931, Keith Rupert Murdoch, the son of Sir Keith Murdoch and Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, who themselves had English, Scottish, and Irish ancestors, had the news in his blood.
His father was a keen newspaper man who owned two regional papers running out of Adelaide. He was also the chairman of the Herald and Weekly times. Rupert joined the family business at the age of 21, upon his father’s passing. And straight away got into expansion mode which laid the foundation for the Murdoch empire as we know today. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Murdoch expanded these holdings across Australia and New Zealand. He expanded even further, into the United Kingdom, in the late 1960s, and in 1974, moved to New York City to focus on the US market.
And there was no looking back. He acquired The New York Post in 1976, and 20th Century Fox in 1984. The next year he gave up his Australian citizenship to become a naturalized US citizen, in order to legally own and operate US television stations. Today, he is the 34th richest person in the US and the 96th richest person in the world.
No other piece of clothing speaks American more than a pair of blue denims with the label Levis Strauss Co.
Levi Strauss was born in Germany in 1829, and moved to the American shore in 1847. He was the son of Hirsch Strauss and his second wife Rebecca Strauss (née Haas).
At age 18, Strauss traveled with his mother and two sisters to the United States to join his brothers Jonas and Louis, who had begun a wholesale dry goods business in New York City called J. Strauss Brother & Co.
The family decided to expand to the West Coast to cater to the California Gold Rush. Levi was chosen to represent them, and he took a steamship for San Francisco, where he arrived in early March 1854 and joined his sister’s family.
Strauss opened his wholesale business as Levi Strauss & Co. which then made tents and later jeans while he lived with Fanny’s growing family. Jacob W. Davis was one of his customers and one of the inventors of riveted denim pants in 1871, he went into business with Strauss to produce blue jeans. The two men patented the new style of work pants in 1873. With this, an American icon was born. and the course of fashion was changed forever.
An icon who transcends movies, fashion, philanthropy and the great American spirit — Audrey Hepburn, the quintessential idol of elegance, was born in Belgium in 1929, to a Jewish family. It was a turbulent time in Europe as the Nazi influence grew and the world was heading towards another great war. To avoid Jewish persecution, the family moved to the Netherlands. But as the Netherlands fell to Germany, they had to go into hiding. She eventually escaped to Britain. At age 22, she moved to the US, where she starred in her first major acting career with the Broadway play, Gigi. Roman Holiday propped her into international stardom and landed her the Academy Award. She is one of few entertainers who have won an Academy, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards.
Apart from her acting career, her work with disfranchised children has been monumental. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, she travelled extensively for their food programs carrying a beacon of hope wherever she went. Her legacy will remain rich in American history.
Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet — the parent company of Google was born in Madurai, India on June 10, 1972.
After getting a degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in metallurgical engineering, he moved to the United States to get an M.S from Stanford University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was named a Siebel Scholar and a Palmer Scholar, respectively.
He joined Google in 2004, and after leading the product development for a host of products from the Google Suite, he was named the CEO of the company in 2015. He took over the charges with the completion of the formation of Alphabet Inc. His global influence is now a matter of American pride; now that’s what you call an immigrant song to be sung.
There are so many others who are shining bright in their respective fields and as beacons of hope for other immigrants, every day. Hope that keeps the American Dream alive.