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The Fourth of July is a time for family, fireworks, picnics, and pies.But it's also a time when many reflect on what it means to be an American.Here at Michigan Radio, we asked immigrants across Michigan what America means to them. Here are some of their stories.

Searching for a cure to cancer a part of the American Dream for Yemeni-American

In honor of July 4th, we asked immigrants across Michigan what America means to them. Abdo Najy shared his story.

Abdo Najy has just recently completed his PhD and hopes to run his own lab soon. He's friendly, smiles a lot, and is animated when he talks about his research on breast and prostate cancer. 

Najy is modest and measured, but he knows he has a role in the search for a cure to cancer. He views his work as a scientist as his way to repay this country for educational opportunities he would not have had in his native Yemen. 

Born in Yemen in the 1980’s in the midst of a polio outbreak, Najy contracted the disease when he was just six months old.

Although Najy says that in Yemen there was a taboo against immigrating to the United States – mostly because it was believed to be a bad place to raise children – his father decided to move the whole family so Najy could receive better medical treatment.

Had he stayed in Yemen, he would’ve had to hike through rough terrain and over mountains just to attend school, something his polio rendered impossible.

In the United States, however, Najy explains that individuals with physical and mental challenges do not face such limitations and have greater access to higher education.

Najy is grateful for the educational opportunities available to him in America, believes his contribution now "is towards the curing of cancer"

Now Najy believes he was “fortunate enough to contract polio” because otherwise he would not have become interested in science and medicine.

Najy also works towards bridging the lack of understanding between the Muslim community and the non-Muslim community. He believes there is a lack of information on both sides, which leads to a mentality of “that which is not familiar to me, is my enemy.”

For Najy, the American Dream means so much more than traditional conceptions of home ownership. It means greater access to educational opportunities, religious freedom and tolerance, and the chance to contribute to lifesaving cancer research.

Listen to the full interview above.

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