2015 Keepers Honoree – Lorella Praeli
October 19, 2015
Keepers of the American Dream are the heroes who embody the spirit of immigrant achievement, contribute significantly to the well-being of immigrants in the United States, and are advocates, in every sense of the word, for the value of immigrants and immigration to the nation.
Dreamer, Immigrant Rights Advocate
I am sad to miss this evening of celebration with you…
Friends who saw me grow in D.C.—with those who pushed me to be my best self and mentored me along the way as we fought tirelessly for justice and opportunity.
There are also many of you whom I have not had the privilege to meet, but I know that Ali and the Forum only bring the best of the best together. Thank you all for this tremendous honor.
In many ways, you lucked out tonight, because you get to share this evening with two of my favorite people…Yes, Maria, say it…
With my sister, Maria, who is the definition of a Dreamer—brave, rebellious, strategic, unafraid, and unapologetic. And with my heroine, the woman who left her country of origin sixteen years ago, and instilled in me my fighter spirit…
My mother, Chela, or “Chelita” as we like to call her in the family…
because you have been fighting with AND for them for a long time. And while we have made significant progress, our work is not yet done.
When Ali broke the news about the Keepers of the American Dream Award, I thought about my journey and found myself quickly at OUR journey. I thought about the where we have been—the ups and downs of the CIR fight in 2013…remember? Breaking the news to some of my closest friends and parents in the movement about DACA in 2012…my meet up with the Bortolleto twins in Connecticut (the first time I met Dreamers outside of my immediate network), and my conversation with then-National Coordinator for United We Dream, Carlos Saavedra, in 2010.
He invited me to join a national planning meeting with UWD…only if I promised to build something in CT. So, I took a chance, walked into a room of two hundred PROUD Dreamers and my life was never the same. I met some of the most incredible people in my life who changed me for the better.
So tonight is not about me. It is about United We Dream and the work we have collectively—yes, with you—led up until today. It is about the barriers we have overcome and every time we have said “YES” to redefining what it means to be an American…an undocumented American.
And tonight is about Chela and every mother and father who left the comfort of their cultura, país, e idioma…their culture, country, and language… so that their children could have access to more opportunity and grow up in a country where they could do anything and everything.
Chela taught me HOW to fight. She reminded me that losing a leg didn’t make me less than; it made me different and cool, because I could take my leg off and put it back on. She taught me how to sing, “yo tengo una piernita que se pone y se saca…se pone y se saca…”
Chela also taught me courage. She showed me that hard work, kindness, and humildad were the key ingredients to happiness. She didn’t have to say much for me to learn this—my mother gave up being a psychologist in Perú and turned to cleaning homes 16 years ago…all so that I could be here today. And I am so grateful—so grateful for my experience as an undocumented person for 14 years with an undocumented mother, because my mother has taught me what it means to be an American every day.
So, a toast today—or maybe a chant…or a few seconds to think about those people in our lives—all the people who make our great country better and stronger…
those who unite us in our shared mission to fight so that no one. No one feels the need to live in the shadows.
I believe that our greatest days lie ahead and that Dreamers, undocumented parents and workers, green card holders, naturalized U.S. citizens, Ali Noorani, the Forum, and YOU are bringing us one step closer to that shared vision each day.
Thank you for this tremendous honor.