“Why did I come to this country? Simple. Every person I met in Iran when I was growing up said that United States is a good country. They really loved this country.”
Kian Shafé came to the United States in 1955 on a student visa from Tehran, Iran. The youngest of four children, he grew up with the nickname Kiki and came to study in the U.S. after political shifts interrupted his education in Iran. While studying to receive his Bachelors of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. he met Judith J. Homan. A few years later, her name became Judith J. Shafé and even though Kian completed his B.S. in three years, he was a bachelor no more.
When asked how the romance started, Kian said it was simple. His fellow students would often remark on his very un-European name saying, “Oh, what a unique name. Can I name my dog Kian?” or “Can I name my horse Kian?” To all of these, the young Kian took no offense and simply said, “Sure, do whatever you want.”
But when he introduced himself to the young Judy Homan she said, “Oh, what a pretty name. Can I name my daughter Kianette?” At this, Kian’s eyebrows went up. She was the first American that had known there even was a female version of his name (and the fact that Judy didn’t want to give the name to an animal was a nice change, too).
Three sons later, Kianette Shafé joined their family. The youngest of four, she too is nicknamed Kiki. Like her parents, Kiki, along with her husband and four children, lives in the Kansas City metro. Her oldest brother, Marquem (Marc) Shafé lives nearby, too. Michael Shafé, Kian & Judy’s third child, bought a property right next door to his parents and built a house where he lives with his wife and four sons. The second oldest of the Shafé children is the only one that lives outside the of the Kansas City area, and the whole family wishes that he would move back from California.
Family is important to the Shafés. Every Sunday, Kian and Judy have their children and grandchildren over for dinner. On one Sunday in February, 2014, the Your Fellow Americans team was able to join them for the evening meal and hear their thoughts on race, immigration, and the American Dream. It was a dynamic conversation and one that we were told is not much different from their normal Sunday routine. As the evening went on and the conversation around the table kept up its pace, Kian himself disappeared from the table. He was in the kitchen doing all the dishes.
When asked why he is the one to do the dishes when there are so many young grandkids about (the youngest of which, his fourth child’s fourth child, is also nicknamed Kiki), Kian said that he does them every Sunday, preferring to give the rest a chance to keep talking and relaxing. “Plus,” he said with a wink, “this way I can be sure they’ll miss me when I’m gone.”
In the video above, Kian tells the story of why he came to the United States.