As I spent Mother’s Day with my mother, I reflected on the hardships she faced as a Cuban refugee and how some in our nation are attempting to make the United States like those very nations that my mother and millions of immigrants fled. It’s why the best Mother’s Day gift is to pass on to others some of the life lessons she’s taught me.
I’ll be honest; life hasn’t always been easy or joyful for her. She’s lived through hard times, but, today she and my father live a comfortable life in the city, state, and country they love. They came to the U.S. with nothing, from countries 6,000 miles apart, with no common bond except the shared immigrant experience, a desire to live the American Dream, and a limited vocabulary in a new language.
Growing-up, dinner in the Malliotakis household was always a cross cultural experience; feta cheese and moussaka often shared the table with plantains and rice and beans. My father instilled in me the value of hard work and the unlimited potential I have simply because I was fortunate to be born in the greatest country ever known.
My mother taught me a lot about the price of freedom, the greatness of our democracy and, in a very understandable way, about the dark side of socialism (or as I refer to it, communism-lite). It never seemed like a lesson though, because it was stories from my mother’s life.
You see, my mom grew up in Contramaestre, Cuba, where her father was a small businessman who owned two gas stations. As a girl, she remembers a young and charming revolutionary named Fidel, coming down from the mountains, carrying a dead chicken for the stew-pot, as he headed to dinner with friends. By the time she was 15, Fidel Castro was no longer charming; he had seized power, Cuba was in turmoil, the newly formed revolutionary government had confiscated her father’s gas stations and her extended family was preparing to flee the country with nothing but memories. Her father (my grandfather) would stay behind in hopes that Castro would be ousted and the gas stations returned.
That was a bad plan; my grandfather would spend the remainder of his life in Cuba, never allowed to leave and visit his family in Puerto Rico, Florida, or New York. That’s the brand of Socialism I learned about when I was growing up.
Today, the lessons continue. My relatives in Cuba received a good education but can do nothing with it. They have their “guaranteed job” from the government and earn the equivalent of $10 USD a month. They have “free healthcare” but need us to send them aspirin. The basics that we take for granted like soap, rice, and beans are sold in limited quantities per person through a government run rationing system. It is a constant reminder of how truly special our nation is and just how fortunate I am to have been born in the United States.
These stories, along with the struggles and sadness that go with them, helped shape my worldview. They gave me a unique understanding of the social, financial, and political consequences of a socialist revolution and a far greater appreciation of the freedoms that most Americans take for granted. Socialism may sound attractive when it promises things for free. But, in fact, socialism attacks the fabric of society as it slowly eats away at the soul of the nation. Just as it has in Venezuela; a once prosperous nation that in two decades has been reduced to food shortages, runaway inflation, lawlessness, and the brink of civil war.
Like what I’ve witnessed within my own family, the news footage from Venezuela is a reality TV view of the effects of socialism, not the intellectualized and sanitized version that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez learned about in a political science class while attending Boston University.
As a child, my mother taught me about the importance of elections and how fortunate we are to live in a country in which we elect our leaders. When I was 16, she brought me to the campaign office of our local city councilman who was running for Congress. She inspired me to become involved in politics because it is such a crucial component of preserving the American Dream so future generations can experience and benefit from our nation’s opportunity, its promise, and its generosity.
When I was 28, I decided to run for the New York State Assembly against a two term incumbent Democrat. Others scoffed; they felt I was too young and inexperienced. My mother said, “You should run. Work hard, be honest and fight for conservative principles and you will win.” Like most mothers, she was right; I won by 10 points.
Now, nearly a decade later I’m running for the U.S. Congress in the same district (NY-11) where I volunteered as a teenager 22 years ago. Over the years, the city has changed. Back then, Rudy Giuliani was mayor. Today, the city that has become a launching pad for the careers of far left icons like Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the radical policies they espouse. It won’t be an easy race but, I’m prepared; my mother taught me well.
So as another Mother’s Day concludes, I’d like to thank my mother, for the love, the encouragement and the support she’s always given me. But, more importantly, I want to thank her for the important lessons she’s taught about me about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in our United States of America.
Nicole Malliotakis represents portions of Brooklyn and Staten Island in the New York State Assembly and was the Republican nominee for NYC Mayor in 2017 and is a candidate for Congress in NY-11. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.