A Vote For Perseverance

At age 51, Jesse Velasquez is finally learning what it is to be an American. "This is the first time I was able to participate in the vote and choose and have a voice," he says.

A Mexican immigrant, he cast his first vote electronically last week in California exercising the basic right and responsibility that is the foundation of the American Dream. "I'm very proud to be an American to help the community in any way I can," says Velasquez.

His life is an example of how his adopted country is still a land of opportunity. He believes "by working hard and being persevering, you can accomplish your dreams or goals."

But it hasn't been easy. After growing up poor in Durango, Mexico, Velasquez came to the United States in 1968 where he started work at Los Angeles' White Memorial Hospital.

At first this man with a quick mind was forced to work with his hands as the hospital's janitor. He says the job not allowing him to live up to his potential: "I felt like I was not using my full capacity intellectually."

A cleaning assignment in the operating room would change the course of his life. "I noticed how they were doing things in surgery. I used to observe them," says Velasquez. "I felt that it was something that I could do."

He made a decision to return to school. While working full time in the evening, Velasquez spent his days in class.

Three years later, Velasquez the janitor became a nurse. "I went through a lot of sacrifice and hard work but...I got my reward by getting my diploma."

In pursuing his American Dream, Velasquez has learned some valuable lessons he now wants to pass on to his fellow countrymen.

"Be persevering and never give up, regardless of the obstacles that you encounter," declares Velasquez. "To me, through education, I have a better life in this beautiful country."