My Dear Paoli,
I’ve owed you this letter for a long time, but I wanted to deliver it at a special moment – and that moment has arrived. You are receiving your master’s degree this spring, and I couldn’t be more proud of you.
Some children surpass their parents in success and happiness by a great margin, and you belong in that category. It might sound implausible that the daughter of immigrants from Cuba and Mexico could wind up attending Harvard. But the truth is that throughout your life, I have grown accustomed to the impossible when it comes to your achievements. (The same can be said for the United States in general. I can only hope that immigrants who come here after me will be treated with the same generosity and opportunities that we have been afforded.)
You are beyond intelligent. In your youth, you learned to make the most of life while shuttling between homes in Miami and Madrid, Spain. These days, I treasure the pictures that you send as you hop around the planet, always with a smile that says unequivocally: “I love this life!” (You don’t know how many times I’ve thought: I want to be just like Paola.)
One of the most difficult things in life is having the courage to be yourself. But for you that wasn’t hard. You don’t imitate others; you are just you. You’ve even developed a style that can only be described as the “Paola look”: comfortable, cool, a bit defiant, but always unique.
Right after you were born, a family friend told me: “Paola will save you.” In that moment, I didn’t fully understand what she meant. But eventually it became clear that the most important people in my life would be you and your brother, Nicolas. You have, indeed, saved me many times. Whenever I have my doubts, I know where to turn: to my heart, to my blood. And you never fail me. You and your brother will always be my priority.
You are also a shining example of inclusion and diversity, attributes that your generation has fully embraced. You and other young people have become fed up with labels and values imposed by others. You’ve decided that you can blaze your own path. As a group you abhor discrimination. Both young men and women have become feminists. Together, you know that you can change the world.
Also like others in your generation, you sensed from an early age that nothing in life is permanent, and you don’t like to wait. You challenge authority and traditions on a daily basis, which will lead to stronger nations. You also realize that life is about leaving this planet a little better than the way we found it. You might be president someday. Or you might be a writer. You could be anything because you have learned that you can do anything, and you know that you should never limit yourself. What you will be is entirely up to you. You have taken full control of your life, of your destiny, and that is invaluable. You also know that true happiness won’t come from an app, nor is it a gift from heaven – it’s something that you have to work for.
Your friends are often surprised when they learn that you and I talk on the phone almost daily. We discuss politics, or we philosophize about love, and when we meet we share books, travel stories, chile-dusted chips, Manchego cheese and a game of basketball. We also share a terror of turbulence when we’re flying. In fact, when my fear kicks in during a rocky flight, I close my eyes and remember the song I used to sing while looking into your beautiful green eyes when you were a child, and I remember the special greeting we shared. (“Stop, Papa!” you’re likely thinking.)
Miami, a city surrounded by swamps and the sea, a home to so many exiles, sheltered us and proved to be a nurturing and tolerant place for you to grow up. You moved away from home a while ago, but nothing excites me more than having you return for a visit. That’s why, no matter what, you’ll always have a room at home. I always want to feel like you are about to come visit.
This letter is public, and, yes, it has probably descended into corniness, which you and I both dread. But I wanted to give you something made with my own hands. Besides, what’s the point of spending your whole life writing for others, but not for those you love the most?
I will conclude by saying that the world is yours. Go forth and start playing. I totally believe in you. I love you very much, Paola. You have a father bursting with joy.
Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is the host of Fusion’s new television news show, “America With Jorge Ramos,” and is a news anchor on the Univision Network. Originally from Mexico and now based in Florida, Ramos is the author of nine best-selling books, most recently, “A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto.”