One of my favorite songs is sung by Neil Diamond. The lyrics have special meaning as to those who immigrated to this great country of ours:
"Far, We've been traveling far, Without a home, But not without a star. Free, Only want to be free, We huddle close, Hang on to a dream. On the boats and on the planes, They're coming to America ... to a new and a shiny place, Make our bed, and we'll say our grace, Freedom's light burning warm. Every time that flag's unfurled, They're coming to America. Got a dream to take them there ..."
"Got a dream to take them there."
The American dream is the star that draws people to our shores. It is the freedom to build a new life, to take an idea and build a business. It is the freedom to live with hope and possibilities, not despair and fear.
Some of you may know that I was born in Germany. Dad was in the U.S. Air Force when he met and married Mom. She and I came to America when I was a baby upon Dad's discharge from the military. A few years later my aunt, uncle and their two boys left Germany and settled in Marietta. A couple of decades later one of my cousins married a Vietnamese woman and she immigrated to this country. So my family is a family of immigrants, of people who left their homelands and came to land of opportunity. When I worked in New York City in international banking I worked with many people who were immigrants; people who followed freedom's light and found a new and shiny place.
Freedom's light and a dream called Tchicaya Missamou from the war-torn Republic of Congo. Forced into military service as a boy-soldier, he saw unspeakable horrors committed upon neighbors, friend and even his family during the civil war. The dream of freedom didn't dim and Tchicaya found a way out of Africa and eventually made his way to America.
He served with the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq. He became an American citizen and is today living his dream in California as an entrepreneur. As the keynote speaker for the chamber's 96th annual dinner meeting, Tchicaya Missamou brings a message entitled, "Hope, Believe, Live the Dream." His story will inspire and move you. It will make you proud to be an American.
The Marietta chamber's annual dinner meeting has been the Valley's largest business gathering for decades and we are so proud that it is one of the five largest chamber gatherings in Ohio. It is our time to celebrate our community, to showcase our area businesses and organizations, and to bring the people of this valley together.
It is a time to honor our own citizens whose leadership, work and volunteer effort contribute to the richness of our lives. It is such a privilege and honor to present the Elizabeth A. Hadler Zonta Woman of the Year, the Washington County Council of Cooperative Agriculture Award, the Gabe Zide Citizen of the Year and the MACC Business Leader of the Year.
Beginning with a social gathering and business showcase, guests will enjoy mingling and catching up over appetizers and wine before being seated for dinner and the program. A three-course dinner prepared by Chartwell's will be served by Marietta High School Premiere and Choir students. The Dyson-Baudo Recreation Center on Marietta College campus is an awesome venue for this event.
This dinner is open to the public, so call the chamber at (740) 373-5176 and reserve your seats. The all-inclusive price is $50 per person. More than 400 reservations have already been received, so don't miss out when we celebrate the American dream.
Charlotte Keim, CCEO-AP, is president of the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce, The Riverview Building, 100 Front St., Suite 200, Marietta. Chamber Viewpoint appears every other Monday on Opinion.