We must take an honest look at our society. We have entered a dark era in which our government officials are kidnapping and caging immigrant children, marching in unison with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, appointing anti-abortion activists to the Supreme Court, and changing tax laws to benefit the wealthy few and their friends in government at the expense of hardworking families. Wealth inequality has reached historic proportions, and an entire presidency is now devoted to further entrenching that inequality.
We are defined by the resilience of our communities. Even after slavery, the Indian Removal Act, segregation, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, and the Charlottesville white supremacist march, we are still here. America cannot be defined only by its failings. Our reach may exceed our grasp, and our many imperfections may live side by side with our aspirations, but our greatest strength is that our dreams define who we are as a people. Our dreams make us uniquely American and give our communities strength. We are the American Dream.
Fairness must be our North Star. We can protect the American Dream and pass this great inheritance to our children if our public policies are guided by fairness. Unfortunately, our sense of fairness is under attack from the wealthy few and their friends in government whose short-termism and greed are destroying the American Dream. At a time when the rest of the world has all but caught up to us economically, militarily, and technologically, giving up on the American Dream will turn us into a small country with small ambitions defined only by our failings. We can compete in the world if we believe in the American Dream.
The American Dream will propel us forward if we give hardworking Americans economic security and independence. Unfortunately, economic security and independence are privileges enjoyed only by the wealthy few, namely billionaires and ultra-millionaires. Everyone else is one serious illness or job loss away from financial ruin. We must have faith in the values enshrined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his State of the Union Address of 1944. We must ensure that all Americans have the tools to pursue happiness and realize their full potential. We must show the world that we are still a country defined by our competitive spirit and successes.
Every individual and every community in America deserves a chance at the American Dream. Americans who are afraid of their government are not free. Americans who are chained to their employers to provide healthcare for their families, quality education for their children, and retirement benefits for themselves are not free. Americans who are afraid of starting their own businesses are not free. We must ensure that all Americans are free to pursue the American Dream. We are not just a country of immigrants, but a country with an immigrant spirit.
Despite economic hardships, Alp received an excellent elementary school education thanks to the brilliant public elementary school teachers of New Jersey, and he never felt like an outsider in its diverse neighborhoods. Alp and his family spent their weekends in Paterson, visiting Turkish friends and renting Turkish-language movies from local grocery stores. Alp and his family even participated in a Muslim circumcision ceremony for Alp as if they were still in Turkey.
In the early 1990s, as the “trickle-down” economic policies of Republican presidents took their toll on hardworking families, Alp and his family were forced to move back to Turkey and live rent-free in the spare home of his uncle. Because of convoluted U.S. immigration policies, Alp and his mom waited in Turkey for their Green Cards for years while his dad lived in Cliffside Park and continued working as a New York City yellow cab driver. After four and a half years, Alp and his mom received their Green Cards at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul and the family was reunited in Fort Lee.
In Fort Lee, Alp once more found himself in a New Jersey school district that provided an excellent public school education full of honors and advanced placement classes. The family deliberately paid a substantial amount of their income toward rent in order to afford a good school district. The superb educational foundation provided by Fort Lee High School allowed Alp to complete three majors and write two honors theses at Vanderbilt University. Alp graduated Vanderbilt University magna cum laude, and he received his law degree from UCLA School of Law.
After racking up an absurd amount of student loan debt, Alp moved back to Fort Lee and worked as a corporate lawyer for nearly a decade in the New York offices of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Pepper Hamilton LLP. During that time, Alp also secured asylum for persecuted LGBTQ and HIV+ refugees on a pro bono basis and supported two disabled family members who suffered catastrophic illnesses and medical expenses. Alp recently started his own company, Aslan Capital Advisors LLC. Alp continues to live in Fort Lee with his wife, two small children, retired cab driver father, retired hairdresser mother, and Great Pyrenees rescue dog.