Celebrating Citizenship Day

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June 2014 Naturalization Ceremony

Today is Citizenship Day. Across the country, thousands of new citizens are swearing allegiance to this country and this dream. Last Tuesday, I saw 875 new citizens sworn in at the St. Paul River Center. They came from 91 countries, but now they are part of one country. More new citizens were sworn in on Thursday in Moorhead, and even more across the country during the past week and today. They all swore to “support and defend the constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

At the St. Paul citizenship ceremony, Judge Kate Menendez quoted former President Barack Obama, who said recently that this country is a place where anything is possible and citizenship is an obligation to ensure that it stays that way.

“You can be part of making that happen,” Judge Menendez told the new citizens. “Fight at the voting booth. Fight at the polling place. Be a part of this democracy.”

Today is also Constitution Day. That combination of Constitution and citizenship seems fitting. The Constitution provides a framework for living together, and citizenship gives life to that framework.

The immigrants becoming new citizens of the United States believe passionately in contributing to the life of this country. They have worked and studied and scraped and saved to file for citizenship. They waited for years to after getting their green cards to be eligible to apply. Then they waited months or years after applying to finally get an interview, and then for the celebratory day of taking the oath as citizens. Their stories, their struggles, their determination, and their pride are inspiring.

Want to share that inspiration? Here are two suggestions:

First, take a couple of hours and attend a naturalization ceremony. The hope, commitment, and energy are incredibly inspiring. Here’s the Minnesota schedule for the rest of the month:

  • 14 2:00 p.m. Bloomington Schneider Theater, Bloomington, MN
  • 17 11:00 a.m. Shoreview Community Center, Shoreview, MN
  • 26 9:15 a.m. St. Paul Courthouse, Edward J. Devitt Courtroom
  • 26 11:30 a.m. St. Paul Courthouse, Edward J. Devitt Courtroom

All the ceremonies are free and open to the public. Schedules are posted on the federal court web page.

Second, get to know an immigrant. In person is best, but if you don’t see a way to do that, check out the story of the Polo family or Oogi or Dr. Ayaz Virji or Kao Kalia Yang.

Citizenship is a privilege and a responsibility. Last week, speaking to students in Illinois, former President Barack Obama called on them to take their citizenship seriously. He said:

“What’s going to fix our democracy is you. People ask me what are you going to do for the election? Now, the question is, what are you going to do? You are the antidote, your participation and spirit and determination, not just in this election but in every subsequent election, and in the days between elections. Because in the end, the threat to our democracy does not just come from Donald Trump or the current batch of Republicans in Congress or the Koch brothers and their lobbyists or too much compromise by Democrats or Russian hacking.

“The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. The biggest threat is cynicism.”

 

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