Today marks the 20th anniversary since I decided to pack my bags and immigrate thousands of miles from Beirut, Lebanon, to the United States. With virtually no money, no friends or relatives, and no other viable financial support, I was committed to embark on this journey, having the love and support of the best parents, my five siblings by my side, and dreams larger than life, but with a solid plan to back-up these dreams to try to achieve them.
Many things have happened since then. Most are humbling. From eating bread and jelly for 20 days because I couldn’t eat anything else with the money I had; to working 12-hour night shifts on assembly lines making the Grand Cherokee car seats; to later starting an insurance agency from scratch, and then selling it in 2014 to become a full-time attorney.
I also somehow managed to escape a gun held to my head, and a machete because the potential client I met with didn’t like my hair color and my accent.
Along the way, I was able to get my parents and three of my siblings to join me here in 2005. I also earned a master’s degree in finance in 2008, and then a Juris Doctor degree in 2014, all while working full-time at my insurance agency to support myself and my family, while also completing an internship at the US Attorney’s Office and in the Federal Court in Detroit. Somehow, I also found time to convince my wonderful wife, Amy, to marry me.
One more thing that I almost forgot. Looking in the mirror this morning, I was reminded again that along the way, I lost my hair.
As I reflect on this journey, which is just starting, I can’t help but thank everyone who has crossed my path. I learned something from them whether they knew it or not. I also owe a debt of gratitude to everyone that helped me along the way whether by offering a friendship, a job, a new opportunity, an idea, or even a handshake. I couldn’t have done it without them.
As I ponder on immigrating to the United States, I can say without a shadow of doubt that it was the best decision I have ever made. And if given a choice, I would do it all over again. The United States has offered me many opportunities, and with hard work and commitment, I made the best out of them. The United States has also changed me in more ways than I thought possible. Now, I don’t consider myself an immigrant anymore. I am now an American. And I don’t mean an American because I am a citizen. I am talking about an American state of mind. I now realize that the American dream is about capturing opportunities, and turning them into something large. It is about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, while realizing that others also have the same rights to pursue everything that America has to offer, and to co-exist, with respect and dignity regardless of who they are, where they came from, or what God they worship.
In closing, one belief remains: God Bless America.
Who is Rabih Hamawi?
Attorney & Counselor
Rabih Hamawi is a principal at the Law Office of Rabih Hamawi, P.C. and focuses his practice on representing policyholders in fire, property damage, and insurance-coverage disputes against insurance companies and in errors-and-omissions cases against insurance agents. He may be reached at (248) 905-1133.