Immigrants Are Making Shoes in Maine For Team USA and Immigrants Are Bringing Home the Gold

There is an inspiring story on about a shoemaker in Maine. Rancourt & Co is a three-generation family-owned shoemaker in Lewiston, Maine. Owner Mike Rancourt was interviewed recently about the challenges the company faced with finding people who wanted to be shoemakers. This created worries about whether the business could continue. Three years ago, a group of French-speaking African immigrants moved into the area and were happy to find jobs in his company. This may have saved his business. He was delighted to be able to help them assimilate and learn a craft and has found his new employees to be reliable, hardworking, and lovely to work with. He now sees there is a future for his business thanks to them. These immigrants are now making sneakers and he recounted how the faces of his employees lit up when he told them that the sneakers that they were making were going to be worn in Tokyo by Team USA athletes. 

And in Tokyo, immigrants and first-generation Americans are representing the U.S in volleyball, baseball, gymnastics, horseback riding, fencing, and other events.

Eddy Alvarez, the son of Cuban immigrants,  a 2014 Olympic medalist in speed skating and now a member of the U.S. baseball team was a proud U.S. flag bearer who told NBC’s Today show that “Just to get the honor to represent the United States of America, to hold the flag – the symbol of liberty, of freedom – my family came over to this country from Cuba in search of opportunity, and if it wasn’t for them doing that, I wouldn’t be in the position I am now.” In another interview, he added that “Being a first-generation American, my story represents the American Dream. My family has sacrificed so much for me to have the opportunity to wave this flag proudly.” 

My favorite story about immigrants representing and winning for Team USA is about Suni Lee, the first Hmong American gymnast who won gold in the all-around performance. Her parents were children in the late 1970s when they and their families fled Laos to refugee camps in Thailand and then resettled in Minnesota. Before the Olympics, her proud father said that if she were to win a medal “It would be the greatest accomplishment of any Hmong person in the U.S. ever. It will go down in history.” Her Gold medal win certainly has made history for her ethnic community that has never had a home and for Team USA.

These stories make me proud to be a citizen of a country of immigrants and proud of the work that I have done in bringing immigrants to the U.S. to strengthen and enrich our country. 

Linda M Kaplan
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