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AMIR FALLAH: REFUGEE, IMMIGRANT, AMERICAN

I was born in Tehran, Iran in 1979, which is the year that the Iranian revolution happened. And shortly after the revolution, a war broke out with Iraq that lasted eight years. So really, I was born in a lot of turmoil back to back.

One of my first memories is going to my grandma's house and playing in her bomb shelter. But I also have a lot of wonderful memories of going to the beach with my family and just having a normal childhood.

My parents decided to leave, they just thought the war was getting worse and worse. When we arrived in America, we had about $72 to our names. And it was really hard because my parents were [in their] late twenties, early thirties, they had a young kid and they [left] a good life in Iran - a middle class, happy life. And when we came here, we had to start from scratch.

I watched my parents for the first 15, 20 years of being in America, rebuilding every little thing they had - so having multiple jobs, living in a roach-infested apartment, being on welfare for the first few months that we were here. And little by little, they built their life back. Watching them struggle really instilled the work ethic in me that I don't think I've ever given up.

My dad's kind of like the stereotypical American dream. He was the manager of a Domino's Pizza and he ended up buying an Italian restaurant that made and delivered pizzas. And he's had that business for 30 years at this point, he built it.

It’s made it really hard to be lazy. Every time I feel lazy, I think about my dad working 18 hours every day for seven days a week for years and years. So it just pushes me to work harder.

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