In a single generation since their families fled Iran’s 1979 revolution, two Iranian Americans have soared to the top of their professions, with one possibly going to the moon and the other commanding an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. Navy Captain Kavon Hakimzadeh and U.S. Marine Corps Major Jasmin Moghbeli have both seized opportunity in the United States, where people of all backgrounds can succeed.
“It’s certainly a testament to the United States of America that a guy named Kavon Hakimzadeh can” rise from enlisted sailor to commander of an aircraft carrier, Hakimzadeh told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in August.
The Norfolk based carrier USS Harry S. Truman is in the Persian Gulf region.
— The Virginian-Pilot (@virginianpilot) January 7, 2020
Hakimzadeh took the helm of the USS Harry S. Truman last July, leading the ship’s patrols of the Persian Gulf, which is one of the world economy’s most vital waterways.
Moghbeli graduated from NASA training January 10. The new astronaut joins the Artemis program, which will land the first woman on the moon by 2024 and send astronauts to Mars.
Rarely a dull moment in this job! Today, I was spinning in a centrifuge. Tomorrow, I will be in the NBL training for spacewalks. While jet pilots experience high g forces into the seat, astronauts experience them into our chests making it a bit more difficult to breathe. #nasa pic.twitter.com/8S5pYGz4dj
— Jasmin Moghbeli (@AstroJaws) December 5, 2019
Iranian Americans are among the most highly educated immigrant groups in the country. Nearly 60 percent of Iranian Americans have earned at least an undergraduate degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Iranian Americans also have one of the highest rates of self-employment and lead professional organizations devoted to the arts — especially music and literature — a reaction to the Iranian regime’s strict repression of artistic freedom.
The U.S. military provides another avenue for advancement. Though born in Texas, Hakimzadeh lived in Iran until age 11, when the 1979 Islamic revolution forced his family to flee. He joined the Navy in 1987 to give back to the country that embraced his family.
Moghbeli’s parents also fled Iran’s revolution. She was born in Germany before her family moved to the United States. Raised in Baldwin, New York, Moghbeli earned degrees in aerospace engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Naval Postgraduate School.
She has flown more than 150 combat missions and logged thousands of hours flying in 25 different aircraft. Her adventurous career would have been unlikely in Iran, where regime restrictions bar women from even attending public soccer matches.
Now eligible for space travel, Moghbeli told the Associated Press in December that she hopes her experiences will inspire girls in the United States and abroad to pursue their dreams.
“It will be such an incredible thing for girls around the country and around the world to see a woman on the moon for the first time,” she said.