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A legacy of diversity

Feb 27, 2017 11:54AM ● Published by Neighbors Magazines

by Scott Lebin

We are all immigrants to Geneva by heritage unless we are directly descended from the Pottawatomi Indians or Chief Waubonsee and any of his ancestors. Although they too became new arrivals to this area at some time before Christian Bowman Dodson and Archibald Clybourn set up the first trading post at the mouth of Mill Creek in 1834 to trade with the Pottawatomi and settlers as is listed in information provided online by the Geneva History Museum. Through documentation at the Geneva History Museum, we have a good chronicle of how this area became settled and when the Swedish, Irish, and Italian immigrants first arrived.

It was boat, then train, then automobile, and finally air travel that made settlement of our communities more accessible during the last two centuries. However, the most important part of the story during that time is how each immigrant group brought new ideas, foods, traditions, clothing and values with them. Over time those unique cultures blended together to form our own American diversity that had the nuances of each group that participated in and added to the American way of life.

In the 1800’s when Geneva was founded, those immigrant children, young adults and others often left their parents, their friends and a way of life behind. It was most likely they would never see their relatives and friends again.

Historically, the advantages of the migration of immigrants to a new land and new community were the benefits brought by them to their new community. A web site of famous immigrants identified: Albert Einstein (Germany), greatest physicist of the twentieth century; leoh Ming Pei (China), famous architect of John F. Kennedy Memorial Library and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Madeleine Albright (Czechoslovakia), Secretary of State; John Muir (Dunbar, Scotland) Father of Our National Park System; Joseph Pulitzer (Hungary) Editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, raised money for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and his legacy the Pulitzer Prize; and Saint Frances X. Cabrini (Italy), she founded sixty-seven schools, hospitals and orphanages. These well-known individuals added to the well-being of all Americans in the same way that the immigrants that settled in Geneva left us with elements of the Geneva we know today.

We are thankful that our ancestors left us with wide streets, open spaces for parks and recreation and a blend of cultures. Who would have imagined, that within the borders of Geneva, we would have had the wide variety of eateries with samples of ethnic cuisine from a multitude of different continents all within our city limits?

Immigrants who arrived in Geneva as in the rest of the country came for a multitude of reasons. They were either escaping from despots and persecution, or they were coming to join other family members who came before them, or they sought the opportunity to grow and contribute to the society in ways they couldn’t back home. Their one common trait was their desire or hope to be part of the American Dream. It is the same hope many of our own ancestors had when they arrived in America. They were not always welcome; they had to face hardships; and they had to change and adapt as best they could to a new way of life.

We as a community and country were made all the richer by the additions they brought and by the work ethic they demonstrated. They came not for a handout but to create a life and become good community members. Our ancestors at the turn of the last century followed four principles that could be helpful for us in teaching our children today. One, there is no such thing as a job that is too menial…they had to have a job. Two, the most important thing for their children was to have an education because it would provide the hope and opportunity to succeed that this country offers. Three, that no matter how little they made they had to save something for a “rainy day.” The last principle was that unless they had money to purchase something they waited and tried to avoid buying on credit. The lessons and wisdom of the immigrants who came before should not be forgotten. Hopefully we have learned from history and are accepting of all people from all parts of the world. That is what makes the United States special. Geneva has always been that type of community. It has welcomed strangers and benefited from their contributions over the last two centuries and it will be the community’s great diversity that expands and develops its own special quality of life into this 21st century.

Scott Lebin is a Registered Representative and Investment Adviser Representative of an Investment Advisory Services offered through Signator Investors, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC, and an SEC Registered Investment Adviser. 20 S. Second St., Geneva, IL 60134. 199-20170207-349785

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