If you haven't even been to a naturalization ceremony, I'd highly recommend it. I went to one this week as part of our coverage on the backlog of applications for naturalization. The ceremony was very moving. Keep in mind I get kind of choked up whenever I hear the Star Spangled Banner. So to see hundreds of people, 430 to be exact, just about to become Americans, well, let's just say I did a lot of blinking and digging my fingernails into my palms.
The naturalization ceremony feels something akin to a high school graduation. This particular ceremony was held in a huge room in the Arlington Convention Center. The applicants were seated together at the front of the room and all their friends and family were seated behind them. There was an introductory speech, the national anthem and then the introduction of the candidates. Since there were so many, there were introduced by their country of origin. There were 66 countries in all, ranging from Iraq to Honduras to Vietnam. The sheer variety of faces and languages and backgrounds was inspiring. Within the hour, all of these diverse faces would become American faces.
After the introduction of candidates came the oath of allegiance. The judge overseeing the proceedings said he felt all Americans should take the oath. As someone whose citizenship came through happy coincidence and absolutely no effort of my own, I can't help but agree with him. These new Americans are every bit as much a citizen as I am, having been born here, but in some ways they are even more so. I didn't have to take a test or have my background checked to get all the privileges that are mine — these people made a conscious effort to do so. So we may not have to take the oath, but at least we can read it:
"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."
Maggie Lineback is a Dallas bureau producer.