The mayor of a prominent Houston suburb shares his observations



AS A DESCENDANT OF ITALIAN IMMIGRANTS, and a careful observer of the impact of the various cultures on our society, I’m aware of the many hurdles and travails which confront new arrivals in our country, as certainly it had a very telling influence on my ancestors. I am convinced that when the history books are written, they will point to the Indians as one of the most adaptable and successful cultures ever to come ashore in this great country.

Tremendous credit must go to a culture who entered the USA with what most regarded as almost insurmountable odds stacked against them and demonstrated in a fashion many considered improbable, if not impossible—through commitment to some of the most treasured American principles, as well as those ingrained in their imported culture—that it need not take generations for a new group of immigrants to weave its way into this country’s fabric.

Much of this extraordinary achievement must be attributed to the strong family values so prevalent in Indian immigrants and their offspring. It is truly this substance that cements the culture. From the oldest to youngest, admiration, appreciation and, most importantly, unwavering respect is abundantly apparent among each of the generations. As a result, this cohesiveness manifests itself in a unique pride which feeds on itself and continues to strengthen.

From this attribute emanates other special qualities. Most notable is a strong work ethic. Not only does this afford an excellent economic viability, which is so important to newcomers attempting to establish their roots, but it attracts recognition to the resourceful nature of these relatively recent arrivals. Additionally, it solidifies the determination of Indians to exhibit that they have come here to make a substantial contribution to this country, not simply to feast off of the accomplishments of those who have come before. The admiration this produces among Americans who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps is incalculable.

A deep thirst and pursuit of excellence in education is instrumental in strengthening their composition. One has to look at the collegiate degrees—many advanced—they brought with them. But that is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Simply look at how many continue their educational achievements, their apparent main motivation being to illustrate their desire for a fuller learning experience. Another reason inspires them: to set a sterling and indelible example for their offspring. And it works beautifully. Just look in the newspapers at valedictorians and salutatorians in the local high schools. Often times a large number, if not the majority, of these youngsters are of Indian descent. As a result, the elevation of this culture opens the door to avail itself of a superior future.

These innovative people have consolidated their work ethic and educational achievements into an approach that has amazed a whole host of observers. In a nutshell, many of these immigrants coming here with impressive credentials, such as an electrical engineering or accounting degrees, opt to become small business entrepreneurs, foregoing the opportunity to take a good job with a major corporation. Why? The answer is simple. These jobs have their limits, such as advancing within the company above certain levels. Contrast that with owning a business, such as a convenience store, working 100 or more hours a week, with success and advancement determined by hard work and ingenuity. Not only have thousands taken this career path since immigrating, they have surprised even themselves with their accomplishments, in many instances not only making their first endeavor an overwhelmingly profitable achievement, but then parlaying it into an impressive expansion of the business into a chain of similar or varied entities. They clearly illustrate that capitalism has an appeal reaching far beyond multinational corporations.

An inescapable and most compelling component of these immigrants is their fervent commitment to religion. It is almost impossible to get into a full discussion of what makes these people into who they are without an aggressive discourse on how profound an influence their spiritual beliefs command. In many ways their secular pursuits are, if not subordinate to, in the least significantly influenced by the heightened status of their religion. While their faith is splintered between the most prevalent of the religions—Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism—it is no great surprise that Hinduism predominates. What is highly unusual and something rarely experienced with other cultures exercising their beliefs are the long and storied traditions of Hinduism that have permeated the practices and customs embraced in the ceremonies of the Indians of all these other faiths. This unusual influence is clear and unmistakable and cannot be ignored or overstated.

This commentary would be incomplete without a recognition of the commendable manner in which Indians have injected themselves into the political governing of this country, from the most basic positions of local government—as city council and school board members—to the chief executive officers of state governments. With the first Hindu recently elected to Congress, the President of the United States of America is all that remains. And no one is betting against an ascent to this lofty position in the foreseeable future.

LEONARD SCARCELLA has been the Mayor of the City of Stafford, Texas, since 1969 and sits as President of the Board of Directors of the Fort Bend County Industrial Development Corporation. Email: mayor@cityofstafford.com [mayor@cityofstafford.com]