Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor … etc. These names bring out different thoughts and feelings depending on the person who’s having these thoughts and feelings.
However, for me and probably many other people who were growing up in different countries around the time I was, those names are the names we thought of when we thought of America. Another name that I’ve come to associate with America is Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, though he had a very different background from those other people. Louis Armstrong was almost synonymous to America in my mind when growing up because America reminded me of jazz music and jazz music reminded me of Louis Armstrong.
Louis Armstrong was born in the streets of New Orleans to a mother who was a prostitute in 1901. After age 11, he was often sent to the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs for general delinquency. However, it was there where he developed his cornet playing seriously. (He would later switch to the trumpet and become famous). So though his early life seemed rather hopeless, he was able to grow into a legendary jazz musician.
As a child, it is said that Louis Armstrong asked a teacher why is it that everyone works but only some succeed and others fail. The teacher responded to him that people who fail, fail because they put all of their energy into things they can’t do instead of on doing things they can do. People that succeed, succeed because they put all of their energy into things they can do instead of on things they can’t do.
Those words from Louis Armstrong are of great importance to me as an immigrant in this country working in a dry cleaners. I like to think that as I work hard at something I can do, which is dry cleaning, that I am helping to make America the great country that I knew it to be as a child when I used to hear about those great names that were from this country.
Jean Youn is the owner of Value Village Cleaners at 912 West Glenoaks Boulevard in Glendale 91202. For details on services, coupons and more, check out the Value Village Cleaners website here.