On January 3, I had the great pleasure of witnessing a privilege that we far too often take for granted. My good friend, Lenny, originally from Canada invited me to be his guest as he took the oath that made him a citizen of the United States.
At the naturalization ceremony, I watched along with families from every country in the world as their loved ones were sworn in as U.S. citizens. Each person raised their right hand and repeated an oath, solemnly swearing to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
Following loud applause, each new citizen proudly waved a small American flag.
As I moved through the crowd to congratulate my friend, I was struck by the thought that far too often we take the freedoms our flag stands for—and our citizenship—for granted.
At the same time, so many people live here illegally, denied the real freedoms we are granted as citizens.
Others may experience the same freedoms as if they were legal, but choose to not make the effort or commitment to take the oath. And they are missing out. Those who choose citizenship want to become part of this country; they are showing respect for all it stands for.
They are the continuation of our history of immigration, of people coming from all over the world to share their talents, to make this country great. We are a nation of diversity, a place where all individuals--regardless of where they come from--have the opportunity to grow, to reach for their full potential, and to attain success.
After the swearing in, all of the newly-minted citizens had the opportunity to have their picture taken with the federal judge, who offered a few words of congratulations.
He told the crowd, “This is the greatest country in the world. This is not something I am saying today, but something you have said through your actions in choosing to become a citizen of this country.”
The presence of these people, from all nations, pledging their allegiance to the U.S. validate that we are a nation that others want to become part of.
One reason this country has become so great is because of how giving we are, how much we help every country in the world. We can forget how generous, how open America can be.
Amid all the partisan rhetoric and the stresses of day-to-day life, it’s easy to become cynical. But on that day in that small courtroom, I felt a renewed sense of pride in my country.
Maybe if everyone took the time to attend a naturalization ceremony we would become more humble. We would renew our national pride and embrace the freedoms our flag stands.
We would realize what it means to be great. To be an American.