I became a citizen on February 16, 2001, thirty nine years after my arrival. Why so long? At one point in my life I didn't see the need; I paid taxes and Social Security, what was the point other than to be able to hold public office (as if I'd ever want to do that) and be able to vote (as if one person could make a difference). After becoming a mom I began to think that maybe I needed to make this move to the United State a bit more permanent. One thing or another would get in the way and I just kept putting it on the back burner. The burner was so far back it might as well have been on another stove, in someone else's home. In January of 2000 I had the strongest impression that if I were ever to become a U.S. citizen, it was now or it might not ever happen. I wanted to dismiss this, as I often had done, but the impression kept nagging at me. So, I began the
Had I not been raised in the U.S., the endless paperwork would have been rather daunting. Along with the paperwork, there was a written test, a reading test, and an oral test. Again, had I not been raised in the U.S., it would have all been so overwhelming and difficult, especially the test that covers U.S. history and government as well as some questions on local government. If you attended school in the U.S. the questions are easy, or at least they should be. Although, some of the everyday people Jay Leno interviews when he does his Jay Walking segment seem rather oblivious to U.S. history. Sad, isn't it?
After the paperwork and tests there was the oath of allegiance.
"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."I took my oath at the federal courthouse in Tyler, Texas. I was overcome with emotion as I did, which surprised me. My blubbering caught the attention of the local reporter, oh joy. I made the paper, with a picture, in color no less, for all to see my red nose and runny mascara.
I'm glad now that the reporter interviewed Hank and me. After I re-read the article I remembered why Daughter wasn't there, she had a Pre-Calculus test she couldn't miss.
On this day, fifty six other immigrants became citizens, I was just as happy for them as I was for myself. Each of us was given a small U. S. flag, which I still have. See, I do keep important items.
We also received the document that verified we were indeed citizens of the United States. This should probably be in the safety deposit box instead of my cluttered photo/scrapbook-don't-have-a-place-for-this cabinet.
Next on the agenda of citizenship was to get the all important passport. I have no idea why the government encourages this but I got one.
I had plans of traveling outside the borders of this great land, so far its pages are blank, void of foreign stamps. It expires next year so I still have time to use it before I have to fork over some more money to renew it. I'll keep you posted.
In September of 2001 I learned why the urge was so great for me to become a citizen. Everything changed after the eleventh. I understand that the road to citizenship has now become longer and more convoluted. I'm as glad now as I was then that I became a citizen when I did.
I mentioned that one of the things I wasn't able to do as an immigrant was to vote. I tried to convince myself from the time I was of voting age that it wasn't a big deal, but it was. I longed to be able to cast my ballot for the person I thought would do the best job, to make my voice heard, to speak my mind in public forums but didn't because I felt I hadn't the right to do so since I was not a citizen.
I don't take the privilege of voting lightly, I've already cast my vote in my third presidential election. I hope you'll take the time to cast your ballot, it's important, ya know.
I know I am extremely blessed to be here and to be a citizen, I don't take this lightly either. As I look at my life I realize that there are so many who literally risk their lives so they can come and have the American Dream. I am very humbled to see how very fortunate I am to be living that dream. My cry to us all is that we live our lives so that those who have lived and died to protect the dream have not done so in vain. Let's honor them by being good citizens and stewards of this great land. Long live the American Dream.