Video of Recent Speech

Click here to see video of highlights from seminar given at New Trier High School, February 2013, on how our frame of reference and hidden assumptions exert a powerful influence on what we understand about other cultures.

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What do you hear?

What do you hear when I tell these stories?  What is your frame of reference? We all have a frame of reference that influences how we hear things.  Mine, as it relates to Iran, is that of a young child in the 1960s with idealistic parents who believed they could…

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Reflections on Papa’s Letters

As I read my grandfather’s words, I am struck by what he chooses to write about, and how he wants to be known.  He wants us to know him through his values and experiences, not through historical events and religious beliefs. He writes little about the Constitutional Revolution or World…

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A Quick Tangent

Before I delve into my Persian grandfather’s life in the early 1900s, I want to go off on a quick tangent and draw attention to some commentary that appeared in today’s WSJ, in an op-ed piece written by Saba Farzan, an Iranian-born journalist based in Germany.  She writes: Over the…

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Papa’s Letters VIII: Working in Iran

At this time the country was advancing marvelously.  A network of main roads was built by military generals all over the country and streets in the cities were widened.  New buildings for new schools were under construction.  Elected groups of high-school graduates were sent to Europe for higher education.  Finally…

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Papa’s Letters VII: Marriage and Children

Finally, with much exhaustion, I spotted the door where my fiancée, Sourah (your grandmother), was living.  Of course I was greatly excited when I knocked on the door.  When the door was opened I rushed in and walked toward the entrance room where I met the younger brother of my…

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Papa’s Letters VI: Voyage Back to Iran

Dear Kevan – I hope I am continuing where I left off. Denver, CO: In response to my application to Mr. H.H. Tammen, I was immediately hired as a butler in his home.   After six months of service with good pay, together with luxurious living, I had enough savings…

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Papa’s Letters V: Colorado Agricultural College

Colorado Agricultural College [now Colorado State University] accepted me and the dean of the college helped me a great deal by giving me chores in my spare time.  At the YMCA I was given a nice single room for which I worked as a night-clerk a couple of hours each…

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Papa’s Letters IV: Valparaiso University

Valparaiso, Indiana is a small town located about 50 miles from Chicago.  When I enrolled at Valparaiso University there were several thousand immigrant students, and because of Valparaiso’s proximity to Gary, Indiana, with a big steel and iron factory, and to Chicago, most of the immigrant students worked during the…

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Papa’s Letters III: Ellis Island and Beyond

Dear Kevan – Last time I left you at Ellis Island. Here, all the third-class passengers of the ship were lined up standing in front of the customs officer, with their bundles laid open on the floor.  The customs man looked them over superficially.  It didn’t take long to pass…

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Papa’s Letters II: Voyage from Iran to U.S.

The journey to the U.S. started in the summer of 1916 with five other Iranians; three of them were highly educated girls.  We had to cross through Russia by train to get to Finland, and from there to Norway and Sweden. We spent five days traveling in boxcars packed tightly…

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Papa’s Letters I: An American Education in Iran, circa 1910

To break loose from a feudalistic surrounding where my family had provided an easy-going life full of luxury was not an easy undertaking, and it was followed by hardship.  It was a real surprise to my compatriots when they heard that I had followed a caravan in pursuit of education…

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About Papa and his Letters

My Persian grandfather, Jalil Hashemzadeh, was born in the late 1800′s in northwest Iran, in the province of Azerbaijan.  We called him Papa.  I believe he came from the village of Marand, north of Tabriz.  (See map of Papa’s origins.)  The predominant language in this region of Iran, particularly in the…

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