Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
The Oklahoman. June 19, 2018.
— Naturalization ceremony: A reminder of this country's allure
The partisan sniping and the over-the-top rhetoric so prevalent in our nation's politics (and elsewhere in society) can produce cynicism and malaise. A nice pick-me-up is provided by naturalization ceremonies such as the one held Friday in Oklahoma City.
In a large third-floor courtroom of the federal courthouse, 79 people raised their right hand and pledged their allegiance to the United States, the final step in becoming naturalized U.S. citizens. They were greeted with whoops and rousing applause from friends and family.
This newest group of Americans came from 29 countries — places like Trinidad and Tobago, Bangladesh, Egypt, Mexico, China, Burma and the Marshall Islands. They're among the 700,000 to 750,000 who become naturalized citizens each year, according to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.
Applicants for citizenship must be 18 or older, and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who have lived in the United States for at least five years. New citizens must be "of good moral character," be able to read, speak, write and understand English, and, as the citizen and immigration agency notes on its website "have knowledge of U.S. government and history." That knowledge is gleaned from learning the answers to 100 civics questions, some of which might stump many of us born and bred in the United States.
In short, those who become U.S. citizens earn it — and they find the work well worth it.
Carlos Villegas, a native of Mexico who lives in Oklahoma City, said he was excited to be able to join his wife as a U.S. citizen after three years pursuing the honor. "Just happy and proud," Villegas said. "Proud to stand for America."
Tsevelmaa Yadmaa of Mongolia, a general surgeon who lives in Oklahoma City, had spent more than five years on the process. "I'm happy because I've waited long," she said. "I'm excited — freedom for me and a lot of opportunity."
Her husband, Wusthu, had previously become a citizen. "I'm excited that we both became naturalized," he said. "We've been working together for a while" to get to that point.
The group heard District Judge Joe Heaton, who presided, encourage them to stay informed about public affairs and take an active role. "I suspect there is no country in the world where the status of 'citizen' is as important as it is here," Heaton said.
U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, told the group that the gathering was a reminder "of what a great joy it is to be an American. . There is no country on the planet like the United States of America."
That sentiment was found in comments from one of the newly minted citizens, Tony Barton, of Enid by way of Essex County, England. He has been in the United States more than 13 years and said he has grown to love this country and its varied culture. "It's amazing the amount of diversity under one roof," Barton said. "I wanted to be part of it."
These ceremonies provide a vivid reminder that, despite its problems, this country remains a beacon to the rest of the world. May it always be so.
Tulsa World. June 19, 2018.
— After a few skids and bumps, Tulsa may be on track to becoming the BMX capital of the world
The road was a little bumpy at times and there were some near spills — such is the nature of life in the world of big-time dirt-track bike racing — but the city has concluded a deal to bring the headquarters, museum, hall of fame and indoor arena for USA BMX to an empty industrial site on the north side of downtown.
The world's largest BMX racing organization and the city of Tulsa have signed a 30-year agreement with the potential for two 10-year extensions to turn the former Evans-Fintube site into the group's home base and turn the city of Tulsa into what we'll presumptuously suggest will become the BMX capital of the world.
Construction on the site is expected to begin this fall and be completed by the end of 2019.
The new facility will bring the BMX headquarters from Gilbert, Arizona, and its museum and hall of fame from Chula Vista, California. An Olympic-quality track and five-day-a-week racing are part of the deal.
Expo Square has been the home of USA BMX Grand Nationals for 20 years and will continue to host the high-profile event.
When Tulsa voters helped underwrite the headquarters move with $15 million in the 2016 Vision renewal program, the fairgrounds was initially eyed as the site; but that plan skidded out last year, leading to the downtown location.
Being the national focal point for an Olympic sport raises Tulsa's profile, but there are also real economic benefits to converting the empty industrial site into a working asset again. The facility will host more than 100 local, state and national events in the first five years, generating nearly $11 million in economic activity.
There's still a lot of work to be done, but the contract gives the city's BMX plan a solid basis in reality. We haven't crossed that finish line yet, but we can see the checkered flag from here, and we're ready to tear up some dirt.
Muskogee Phoenix. June 19, 2018.
— Action must follow news
Muskogee received great news on two fronts late last week, but it's what the city does with that information that will determine success.
United States Sen. Jim Inhofe said Friday that he will halt an Oklahoma Department of Transportation proposal that could have moved U.S. 69 west of Muskogee.
That same morning, officials from Bacone College announced a sale of properties that could have the college back up and running this summer.
Both are excellent news.
There were many people opposed to the U.S. 69 bypass of Muskogee.
Business owners, lawmakers and residents largely agreed the proposed bypass could harm economic development.
With the bypass option off the table, city and county officials must do all they can to make a positive business environment available to spur economic growth.
Keeping traffic running through town will open the opportunity to continue expansion along the highway — particularly at the intersection of 69 and Shawnee Bypass.
Residents and business owners took a stand and apparently succeeded in removing one obstacle to economic growth.
But now residents must see the fruits of that stance.
Bacone College officials, who suspended operations earlier in the spring, apparently have found funding through the sale of real estate properties.
Now Bacone officials must do all they can to keep the doors open. A second suspension of operations would erode confidence in the college that might not be able to be fixed in the future.
Bacone College needs the support of the community at large and its alumni base to keep the doors open for good.
Muskogee residents, civic leaders and lawmakers must see Friday's developments as opportunities to grow our city.
Otherwise, Friday's good news will be for naught.