I was a teenager when I first heard those words.
It was a sad, sad moment. Ted Kennedy, the youngest of the three Kennedy brothers, was giving the eulogy at his brother’s funeral.
The evening before Robert was shot and killed in Los Angeles, I had shaken his hand as he toured Southeast San Diego in an open motorcade.
As a young Latino, who grew up on Logan Avenue, in an poor part of town, the moment was magical. I had shaken the hand of the future president of the United States.
The rest is history. Kennedy won the California primary and seemed headed to the White House. But on the evening of his great victory, his life ended.
Throughout my entire adult life, Kennedy’s words have never stopped ringing in my ears.
From a poor kid who wanted to become a lawyer, to a lawyer who wants to help immigrants achieve their far-fetched dreams, I am inspired by Kennedy’s words.
I ask myself, almost daily, “Why not?”
Today, as an immigration attorney – helping clients from countries as diverse as Mexico and Morocco, China and Columbia, India and Ireland earn the right to live and work in the United States – I represent strong individuals, chasing a dream of something that has never been in their life.
Whether conscious or not, all successful immigrants, at one time or another, ask themselves, “Why not?”
For instance, last week, seeking immigration assistance and guidance, a young Redlands couple, Albert and Shirley, came to my office to discuss Albert’s unique immigration situation.
Along with his mother, Albert had escaped from Honduras, a country which has suffered quite a bit over the past 10 years.
As a young child, he had obtained temporary protected status (TPS).
He finished high school and began to attend a local junior college. That’s where he met Shirley, a United States citizen, in a history class. They became friends. They started dating. Now they were thinking about marriage.
However, first things first.
Could Albert become a lawful permanent resident and later a citizen of the United States?
They knew for mixed immigrant families, family unity is a major issue.
They understood that TPS is a temporary shelter for immigrants. When it ends, Albert will be once again subject to deportation and removal.
Yet, they wanted to spend their lives together in the United States.
Unlike many individuals who give up as soon as they hit obstacles, Albert and Shirley were willing to dig deeper and fight for their dream.
When I agreed to help them, there was a common, unspoken bond between the three of us. It was encapsulated in the words of Robert Kennedy:
“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”