Influence Essay, Research Paper

Describe A Person who has Significantly Influenced You

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“I shudder at the sight of it. I’d rather see them steal that salad than throw it

away,” my father bellows in consternation after witnessing the closing

rituals at Wendy’s. “Pa, they do it so they can serve fresh food tomorrow,” I defend

the fast food employees’ actions. Despite our past four and a half years in

“the Land of Plenty,” my father clings to his frugality and tremendous respect

for food, acquired by necessity throughout his life in the Soviet Union. The

sharp contrast between my Americanized perspective and old views and

habits retained by my father makes such debates a common occurrence.

Besides performing all the prescribed functions of a “parental unit,” my father

helps me attain objectivity in my judgments by demonstrating how cultural

background affects our view of situations. Coming to the United States at the

age of thirteen felt like falling into a roaring stream without any swimming

skills. Dog paddling, panting, and swallowing gallons of water on the way, I

learned to keep myself afloat and gradually gained experience. Cultural

adaptation was not a choice–it was a survival need. Along with comic strips

and smiles at supermarkets, my mind absorbed such elements of American

culture as equal opportunity and self-confidence. The existence of programs

such as English as a Second Language at my junior high school persuaded me

that these concepts were implemented in daily life. I was thrilled that someone

had toiled to ensure that foreigners like myself had the same access to

education as the other students. Thus convinced of the tangibility of American

beliefs, I began to deem them universal. On the other hand, my father, a

45-year old when we arrived, still perceives reality in Soviet terms, with

American customs being an exception to the rule. His comments on the news

radically differ from what my American friends have to say. When the

hospitalization of the Russian President Boris Yeltsin had the world pondering

Russia’s future, my father inferred latent meanings from newspaper articles. “I

can only trust half of what they say,” he would grumble. “Here they say the

President doesn’t have a liver condition, which, of course, means that he

does.” Stemming from the paucity of integrity in the old Soviet Union,

disbelief and sarcasm permeate Papa’s personal philosophy. Dismissing all

things immaterial as irrelevant, my father often ridicules the ideas I hold dear,

such as political correctness. Some of my activities he does not question, but

admits that their value is a mystery to him. “Why do you want to take

literature classes?” he asks me with genuine amazement. “You can read on

your own, why do more homework?” Yet my enrollment in numerous math

and science classes does not baffle him, math and science being matters of

“substance.” When I challenge the legitimacy of Papa’s beliefs, he rolls his

eyes and says, “I am too old to change my typical Soviet mind.” At first that

seemingly feeble excuse infuriated me, but then the validity of it started to

register. While verbally crossing swords with my father, I realized that only

four years ago, I would have sincerely supported his every word. Further

reflection upon this thought led me to be more attentive to others’ point of

view. Now, when engaged in a discussion, I ask myself, what causes this

person to think this way? Viewing the issue from several aspects, I gain a

more profound and objective insight. My father provides a point of

reference, reminding me of unique circumstances that shape everyone’s perspective.

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