“The essence of America – that which really unites us – is not ethnicity, or nationality, or religion – it is an idea – and what an idea it is: That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things.” – Condoleeza Rice
The American Dream Awards is an event put on by the United Way and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce where they recognize the incredible contributions entrepreneurial immigrants have made to the State of Utah. Four honorees received the award today:
- Dinesh Patel, PhD, Managing Director and Founder, Patel Family Investments – an immigrant from Africa (an Indian by descent)
- Pamela Atkinson, Community Advocate – an immigrant from England
- Abe Bakhsheshy, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at the University of Utah Eccles School of Business – an immigrant from Iran
- Jorge Fierro, Owner, Fierro Group, Rico Brand, Frida Bistro, Rico Catering – an immigrant from Mexico
Each of them shared their experience of immigrating to America and going on to achieve the American Dream. I will share a little about two honorees who also happen to be mentors I deeply respect – Dr. Dinesh Patel and Pamela Atkinson:
Dinesh Patel shared his story of leaving Africa to come to America to get his PhD at the University of Michigan. Deciding to pursue entrepreneurship, he picked up and moved to Utah to join forces with a University of Utah professor and together they founded Dinesh’s first company, TheraTech. Eventually he took the company public and five years later the company was acquired by Watson Pharmaceuticals. Dinesh had achieved the American Dream, becoming a multimillionaire at the age of 49, but he had no intention of stopping there. He went on to co-found what became one of the leading venture capital firms in the State where he helped launch and grow many other successful Utah companies while at the same time serving on the board of numerous companies and non-profit organizations. Now in his mid 60’s, Dinesh is still hard at work helping other entrepreneurs to become successful as well. In his speech today he discussed the importance of setting big goals for ourselves and then working relentlessly to achieve them. There was clear emotion in his voice as he shared, “I am Indian by descent, African by birth, American by nationality, and a Utahan by choice.” Utah is indeed lucky to be home to such a great entrepreneur and an even greater human being.
Pamela Atkinson, or “St. Pamela” as she is commonly referred to, is literally considered the Mother Theresa of Utah. Born into poverty in England she made her way to the United States in search of a better life.
She went to the University of California for her Bachelor’s and then to the University of Washington for her Masters. She tenaciously knocked down doors to go after the career she desired, working her way up to become the Vice-President of Mission Services for world-renowned institution, Intermountain Healthcare, thus achieving her American Dream. Upon achieving success, Pamela turned her attention toward serving others on a major scale, becoming a powerful ally and advocate for the homeless, the refugees, and the at-risk children, to mention just a few of the groups she helps. Extremely humble, Pamela says that she prefers to keep the majority of her personal acts of kindness between herself and God, however by way of example, she shared that a few days ago she received a phone call from someone who couldn’t afford to feed their dog so Pamela immediately made getting that person dog food the top of her priority list for the day. She said we should never underestimate the importance of even the smallest amount of caring, because the feeling we get from having made someone else’s day brighter is the greatest success there is and ought to be a top priority for us all.
Hearing about these two people, you can imagine how blessed I feel to be able to call them friends. What incredible examples they are of overcoming extreme hardships; having limitless courage to go out and pursue your dreams; persisting through every challenge until you are able to achieve the American Dream; and using your success to go out and bless the lives of countless others. Their examples show how to achieve more than the American Dream…they show how to achieve a level of success that goes beyond measure.