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Igor Birman

FROM REFUGEE TO REPRESENTATIVE

Publisher’s Note – Yesterday longtime FlashReport friend Igor Birman announces his candidacy for California’s 7th Congressional District today.  This competitive Sacramento-area seat is currently represented by freshman Democrat Ami Beri.   Below are the prepared remarks to be delivered by Birman at his announcement, and below that is a link to a video that the Birman campaign provided to us.  Enjoy!  Jon Fleischman

Good morning.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much it means to see all of you here.  I know some of you traveled a very long way this morning, and I am truly humbled by your friendship and even more so by your faith in me.

I’ve also come a very long way to stand here today to share with you something that only happens in America.

Nineteen years have gone by since my family and I landed at the San Francisco Airport, refugees fleeing the ruins of an evil dictatorship that had collapsed of its own weight.

After the US Embassy encouraged us to “come and come quickly” before the Russian government could change its mind about letting us out, we left and never looked back.

We lived under a government big enough to control books, travel, and careers, things so minor as how much hot water we could use in our little apartment.

It offered free and universal healthcare whose voice was the Soviet 9-1-1 operator asking: “How old is the patient” to decide if he would send an ambulance.

Thanks to central planning, bananas were a luxury, bread and sugar only available by spending five hours in a freezing line and even mystery meat was subject to rationing cards.

Its philosophy of taking from each according to his ability and giving to each according to his need made everyone equal – I admit – but only as comrades in misery.

But despite all that, we left forever behind the comfort of home and the warmth of friends and relatives and embraced a foreign land with nothing but a couple of bags and a dream of living in freedom.

A few days before we left, the Russian secret police tore apart our tiny apartment in Moscow to intimidate us.  My mom looked my scared little brother in the eyes and said with every ounce of her strength: “Don’t be afraid.  In just a few days we go to America.  This will never happen there.”

She and my dad believed in the promise of freedom so passionately that no conceivable act of tyranny – no threat, no search, no insult – could alter the course they had set.

Against all odds, we made it to America, and in freedom we flourished and found every conceivable blessing.

I started high school at the age of thirteen, two weeks after coming to America.  I didn’t know enough English to answer the question of “Are you a freshman”?  I replied: “No, I am Birman.”  I learned something that day: If I wanted to succeed in America, I needed to learn English and fast.  And so I did.  And by the second semester of that year, the thirteen-year old who didn’t know what “freshman” meant, had tested out of the English-As-A-Second-Language program.

My parents risked everything by coming to a new and unknown land with few belongings and no jobs or even leads.  When they were offered food stamps, they accepted.  But, they wanted to rely on their talents, not on the kindness of others to provide for their family.  They wanted jobs, not food stamps.  We came here in October.  My dad was employed in January.

I enrolled in college not far from here, at UC Davis when I was 16, and as I learned more about America, I was thrilled to discover that I too could be involved in politics.

I did so first as a Democrat.  But after a trip to the Democratic state convention, where a speaker praised the virtues of the Cuban medical system, I had heard enough: I could not be a member of any party that championed the same ideology that I once saw cause so much misery.

So I became a passionate Republican and started writing a column in the school paper to defend the principles of freedom.  After seven columns, the paper had had enough and fired me for “enraging members of the opposing causes.”

Having already lived in a nation where dissent was squelched and then ruthlessly punished, I took great offense to such heavy-handed tactics.  So I sued.  I met many of you in the course of that battle, and we won.  We won because we championed freedom, we were passionate about it and we believed that our cause was just.

When I was nineteen, I took the oath to preserve and protect the Constitution as I became a citizen of the United States.  I made that pledge next to my 88-year-old grandmother, who passed the citizenship exam despite total blindness and advanced age.  She lived her whole life knowing only the worst of despotism – being forced out of her house as a little girl and seeing her dad taken away because he dared to protest – so she spent years, having finally come to America, clutching an old tape player on which my dad had recorded questions and answers to the naturalization exam.  And then she passed it with flying colors.  She did it because as she said, “she wanted to die an American.”

But my life was only beginning and in newly found freedom, no goal seemed out of reach.

In the Soviet Union, government would have picked my career for me.  Because my parents brought me to America, I could go to law school, get a pilot’s license, pick my own major in college: decisions that we may take for granted here, and yet dreams unattainable where I was born.

I took this firm belief in the fruits of freedom to help Tom McClintock win his seat in Congress and then was lucky enough to manage his Congressional office.  I could not have learned the importance of standing firm for the principles of the American founding nor been infected by stronger passion to defend them from a better mentor than Tom.

So, in these nineteen years, I’ve come to know America from very many different angles.  But whatever my station in life, those blessings of freedom have always been with me.

They taught me that America is a country like no other, a nation that denies no one’s dreams and doesn’t take no for an answer, and a place where success comes from a person’s merit and not his muscle.  And above all, we live in a land where no matter if today is good or bad, tomorrow is bound to be better.

We call these bounties of freedom the American Dream, and I’m here not only as proof that the Dream is alive and well, but as evidence that it’s worth fighting to preserve.

Ronald Reagan knew that.  He used to talk about two of his friends who, while listening to a Cuban refugee tell his story of fleeing despotism, turned to one another and said “We don’t know how lucky we are.”  And the Cuban stopped in mid-sentence and said “How lucky you are?  I had some place to escape to.”

Reagan’s point in telling the story was chilling.  He said, “In that sentence, the Cuban told us his entire story.  If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to.  This is the last stand on earth.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I know you feel the same way.  That’s why you are here.

You and I are here because the American Dream is endangered by our own leaders who no longer believe in individual freedom or limited government.

They say that the shining city on a hill has lost its luster, and that now all we can do is spread around what little is left of our wealth to meet tomorrow’s shortages.

They say that the free market no longer works and that government, not freedom, creates jobs, prosperity and abundance.

They say that the President can rule by fiat if Congress won’t go along.

Those who disagree with them are intimidated by the most feared and powerful arms of government, whom they’ve now put in charge of our healthcare.

Under the banner of hope, these policies have bred nothing but despair.  Despite the promises of plenty, they’ve produced only misery.

And yet all they can offer for these failures are mediocre excuses.  They tell us that if only they could grow government bigger and faster, our nation would conquer its woes.

I don’t believe that for a second.

The policies of limitless government do not work and they will not work, because they can not work.  I know because I’ve already watched them collapse once.  And I love my country too much and I believe in it too passionately to watch it fail as a result of those policies.

So that’s why I am here to announce my candidacy for the United States Congress.  I do so in awe of the fact that only in America can a former refugee strive to become a Representative.

I offer to you the same dogged determination with which my parents once sought freedom for my brother and me, so that together we can ensure the American Dream for our children.

I believe that our future is freedom.

I believe that our future is the American Dream revived and resplendent with opportunity that calls forth families like mine deep from the bowels of tyranny.

You and I are about to embark on a campaign to secure that future.

We will champion freedom in bold colors.

We will stand proud for the principles in which we believe.

We will win this debate.

And then we will win this election.

And government in America will not pass from under the control of the people.  Not on our watch.

God bless you all.  And may God bless America.

CHECK OUT THE FIRST BIRMAN CAMPAIGN VIDEO HERE.

[The Birman campaign can be found online at www.IgorBirman.com.]