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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Colleen Wright

December 20, 2002 Marketing Communications Account Executive

Telephone: (410) 581-4293


MPT. This is bigger than television.

Searching for a better life, They came to America

New PBS documentary premieres on Maryland Public Television

OWINGS MILLS, MD. Immigrants to America have come from every country in the world with one thing in common – the search for a better life. Whether it was for economic opportunity, religious tolerance, or personal freedom, they chose the United States. On Wednesday, January 8, 9:30 p.m., Maryland Public Television (MPT) airs a new documentary celebrating these trailblazers, They Came to America.

Frank McCourt, Tom Lantos, Cheech Marin and others from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds share their experiences and stories of the American dream and the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. In their personal recollections, we see the bonds of generations of immigrants from the turn of the 19th century to the close of the 20th.

Narrated by Roger Rosenblatt, They Came to America looks at the 23 million newcomers who arrived in America between the 1880s and 1920s alone -- Italians, Greeks, Armenians, Russians, Poles, Jews, Mexicans, Chinese, Irish, Japanese and others in increasing numbers. Rosenblatt is a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning essayist for The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. He is also an award-winning author of essays for such publications as Time Magazine and the New York Times and of 10 books, including the Robert F. Kennedy Book prize-winner Children of War. His recent book, Rules for Aging, is a national best-seller.

They Came to America features interviews with those who struggled and saved to make the journey to the “Gold Mountain,” from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt’s moving account of coming to America from Ireland in the 1940s, to the Egyptian Arab Jamaal Badaani, who came to America and later joined the Marine Corps. There’s the story of Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos who, barely surviving the Nazis, came to America with his childhood sweetheart Annette,

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They Came to America

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got married and became a U.S. Congressman. Then there’s Rosanne Katon Walden, whose father tried to time his wife’s pregnancies so a baby might be born during a two-week trip to the U.S., enabling them to apply for citizenship. They were successful with their third child, Rosanne, who was born a U.S. citizen.

Actor Cheech Marin, tells the story of his grandparents who came to America just hoping to find some kind of work, never imagining their grandson would become a world famous movie star. Interspersed with vintage family photos and archival footage of the process they went through upon arriving at Ellis Island, these heartfelt accounts, sometimes from first generation American offspring, are incredibly moving. Also included are the stories from a hairstylist who came over from South Korea, a merchant from China, a train conductor from Italy and the Chairman & CEO of MGM Inc. who came from Argentina. And there is the amazing story of Ovidiu Colea who emigrated from communist Romania. So moved by the sight of the Statue of Liberty when he first arrived at Ellis Island, he started a business producing them and today is the only manufacturer of Statue of Liberty replicas in North America.

Professor Alan Kraut of American University, an expert on U.S. immigration and chairman of the Ellis Island Advisory Committee, and Megan Smolenyak, a professional genealogist and creator of the program’s companion book, They Came to America: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors, add insight and inspiration to the show. This book was created specifically for They Came to America and is a compilation of the best books and sources on the Internet for doing your own research, giving a basic understanding of what’s involved in researching the history of immigrant ancestors.

Production funding provided by public television viewers and PBS. Produced by Santa Fe Ventures, Inc. Executive Producers: Neil B. Mahrer, LienaJ Partners and Anthony Tiano, Santa Fe Ventures, Inc. Field Producer/Writer: Andrew Goldberg. Narrator: Roger Rosenblatt. Original music by John Rinehimer. Format: CC STEREO

Maryland Public Television is a not-for-profit, state-licensed public television station which serves the citizens and communities of Maryland and beyond through a variety of broadcast and nonbroadcast activities. For more information on MPT’s on- and off-air programs, visit
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