Stephanie Pearce: The American from Syria
November 22, 2015
There was a man I had the pleasure of knowing. He embodied the American dream. This man was educated, athletic, worked in coal mines, owned a business in town and spent years in public office.
He received his higher education just up the road at Colorado Mountain College. He played soccer there. He always spoke highly of his education and his mentors there. He had no family here and lived with one of his professors.
This man employed many local youth in his business he owned in town. It was a Kentucky Fried Chicken — an all American kind of restaurant. There, he was a role model to many teens encouraging them to further their educations after high school while teaching them business skills.
This man taught both of my kids what public service really meant and why we should value living in this country. When he spoke of his freedoms and all that he had accomplished, I saw his heart. He told them about how he grew up in a place that didn't let him speak of the freedoms he valued so much.
This man was Saad Tayyara. You see, he wasn't born in America. He was from Syria. He read about democracy as a youth and he believed in his heart that all should be free. His beliefs, however, almost got him killed. He told my children of the time when he was young and was awoke in the night with a gun to his head because the Syrian government thought he distributed anti-government pamphlets during a soccer game.
Another time, he was thrown into a 4 by 4 cell with water in the bottom and an electric current running through it for talking ill of the political regime while in a high school class. His father told him that if he were to stay alive, he needed to send Saad to the United States.
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I never met anyone that was so happy to be a citizen of this country. He did all he could to participate in every political process he could to show his thankfulness for being here. He was on many committees, held public offices of mayor and county commissioner.
When I worked with Saad while he was commissioner, I was so impressed with him. He would take every issue that was brought to him like it was the most important issue he ever had. He would do his research thoroughly. He never just took anyone's word for anything. He knew the importance of seeing all sides of an issue and reveled in the chance to make informed decisions.
I never discussed religion with Saad. I never felt the need to. He was always putting the city, county and this country first.
When I think of the thought of Syrian refugees coming in droves to our country and our state, my heart fills with fear. Will they become citizens or will they just expect us to support them? Will they come with intentions of harm?
Then, I think of Saad. Would I have thought differently of Saad if he wanted to come to this country now? What if there is another Saad in this group? Would we be missing giving someone the opportunity to so positively impact us?
Saad made one of the biggest impacts on my life as a mentor to my children and me. I never thought of Saad as a Syrian. He may have come from Syria, but Saad was definitely all American.