For my family, as for so many generations of Americans, America has literally been the last best hope on earth. My grandfather, Maurice Blinken, fled pogroms in Russia and made a new life in America. His son, my father, Donald Blinken, served in the United States Air Force during World War II, and then as a United States ambassador. He is my role model and my hero. His wife, Vera Blinken, fled communist Hungary as a young girl and helped future generations of refugees come to America. My mother, Judith Pisar, builds bridges between America and the world through arts and culture. She is my greatest champion.
And my late stepfather, Samuel Pisar, he was one of 900 children in his school in Bialystok, Poland, but the only one to survive the Holocaust after four years in concentration camps. At the end of the war, he made a break from a death march into the woods in Bavaria. From his hiding place, he heard a deep rumbling sound. It was a tank. But instead of the iron cross, he saw painted on its side a five pointed white star. He ran to the tank, the hatch opened, an African-American GI looked down at him. He got down on his knees and said the only three words that he knew in English that his mother taught him before the war, “God bless America.”
That’s who we are. That’s what America represents to the world, however imperfectly.