This past Friday, I had the honor of shaking hands with 98 people from more than 20 countries and welcoming them as citizens of the United States of America. One of the activities of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is attending naturalization ceremonies and welcoming new citizens with American Flag lapel pins.
I signed up at our last chapter meeting and didn’t realize until the night before that also meant I had volunteered for a public speaking engagement. Say what now? Oh yes…DAR is listed on the program and gives a brief address at each ceremony. Good to know! On the way to town, I was told I could personalize the address to include some information about my patriot. I always hated pop quizzes! I agreed to deliver the afternoon address so I could at least see how it all works first.
When we arrived at the U.S. District Court in Tucson, Security asked straight away if we were the “DAR ladies.” Tell me, was it the red, white, and blue attire that gave it away? We were seated at a table right at the front of the courtroom across from the USCIS officers, one of whom makes the motion to the court for admission of candidates for naturalization.
A gentleman from the State Department provided information about obtaining passports and registering to vote and the judge in each ceremony really spent quite a lot of time stressing the importance of voting. He also talked about the uniqueness of the American experience and how this is the only country in which one becomes an American at the precise moment they become a citizen, regardless of their previous nationality. He said he could obtain German citizenship but never be considered a German (and so on) but that is not the case here.
Wouldn’t you know the afternoon ceremony was packed with so many friends and family they were not all allowed in the courtroom. It really helped my speech jitters to have 48 new citizens plus about 100 supporters, a federal judge, and the other government employees just trying to get through their Friday listening to me talk about our ancestors taking up arms for the cause of freedom. I can never talk about patriot stuff without getting choked up and it’s even worse when I talk about family patriot stuff. Nevertheless, I mostly got through it without my voice breaking and have never been so grateful to take a seat and shut my mouth.
After the Oath of Allegiance, a brand-new citizen volunteered at each ceremony to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. I thought I was in the tear-clear until the video of “God Bless the U.S.A.” started playing. Why was that courtroom so dusty anyway? It’s a health hazard! Speaking of tears, each new citizen and each of their friends and family had the opportunity to speak about their experiences and their reasons for pursuing citizenship. They all had extremely moving stories but the teenage girl who sobbed into the microphone about how hard her mom worked to provide for her family so they could have better lives was nearly my undoing.
After the new citizens received their certificates, they came to our table to receive their pins. We shook their hands, congratulated them, and even took photos of one gentleman with his certificate and flag with his phone. You would never know from being inside that courtroom that we are a nation divided. I checked my text messages after we left the building and saw a national emergency had been declared. There is too much hyperbole and not enough focus on fixing our broken immigration system so that we can have less of what happens at our borders every day and more of what I experienced in that courtroom.
This is something every American citizen should experience at least once. We tend to take our way of life for granted and maybe even think it’s not so great when we watch the news. Forget what the clickbait peddlers are selling to you. I saw for myself 98 people who have endured all manner of hardships to become one of us. As we were walking to the parking garage after the second ceremony, I asked my counterpart how many of these one has to attend in order to make it through without crying and she said she imagines it’s quite a few.