Tom Kando is born at the epicenter of the world’s greatest war. In Hungary, his family survives the holocaust, the nazi and soviet occupations, the bombs, the genocide, and starvation. They escape from Budapest to Paris, living in abject poverty as war refugees. The boy roams the streets, subways and slums, encountering violence and dangerous people. Tom and his family keep moving, gypsy-like, from country to country, hitch-hiking and sleeping on public benches and beaches. At 14, his family settles in Amsterdam, where Tom grows up at risk.
At eighteen, he earns the $50 fare for a one-way ticket to New York, and ten days later he arrives in New York City, not knowing a single soul in the new world. Surviving life-threatening situations, he focuses his drive to receive a fulbright scholarship to one of the country’s finest universities. Soon he learns what the american way of life is all about, the generosity and courage of the american people, the sports, the parties, the hard work, and the competitive spirit. For the first time in his life, he becomes a citizen - a citizen of the most powerful country in the world. After decades of refugee status and discrimination, he becomes an American. He finally belongs somewhere.
After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Amsterdam, he pursues and receives a master’s and a PHD at the University of Minnesota. At 27, he is an Assistant Professor. He spends the following decades teaching at major universities as well as in prisons and for the air force, doing research on criminology, mental illness and human sexuality, and traveling to Japan, Korea, Asia, Africa, Russia and dozens of other countries. As his life unfolds, Kando sees his own experiences mirrored in the history of the times, with all of its stormy, sometimes murderous, sometimes joyous explosions. He actively participates in the turbulent counterculture, the peace movement and the civil rights movement, at times risking a great deal.
Over the course of an eventful life, Kando befriends major figures - at conferences and on the street. These range from Eldridge Cleaver and the Reverend Ralph Abernathy to world-famous football coaches, from famous rock stars to Hungarian President Arpad Goncz and members of President Reagan’s cabinet.
Tom marries and has an idyllic family life. He takes his wife, his children, and in time his grandchildren on exciting trips from Hawaiian volcanoes to the Australian outback, from Norwegian fjords to denali in Alaska, from the Roman Colosseum to the outer Hebrides Islands.
While solidly settled in America, he remains a citizen of the world. He returns to Europe frequently, and feels at home in half a dozen countries.
Sometimes, his European friends confront him with what they see as growing flaws in American society. When this happens, Tom does not shirk his intellectual responsibilities. While deeply progressive at heart and concerned about emerging dysfunctions in his adoptive land, he can never forget what America has given to him. Through perseverance and dedication, Tom prospers and grows in a country that has given him the space, the freedom, and the opportunities which enable him to keep his faith and to overcome all the challenges that 20th century history has thrown at him. This is more than the tale of one man’s life. It is a personalized story of the 20th century, complete with all of its horror and all of its promise. It is a Horatio Alger narrative based on unadulterated facts. It is the saga of an immigrant to the Promised Land.
American sociologist C. Wright Mills said that the central task of social science is to reveal the intersection of biography and history - the individual and social structure. The story which unfolds in these pages is a vivid illustration of this process - how our chaotic, global environment shapes our lives.