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Celebrating Citizenship

July 06, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Oath of Allegiance

July 4th is our patriotic holiday, celebrating the day 234 years ago when the founders of this country asserted their independence from a distant King who ruled over his colonies on this continent.  The holiday is a great day for new Americans to renounce their allegiance to "any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty" of whom or which they had been a subject or citizen and to declare their allegiance to the United States, its constitution, and its laws.


This year, on and around July 4th and continuing today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services conducted 55 special naturalization ceremonies in 26 states, Puerto Rico, Germany, Japan, and Honduras.  Several of them took place at iconic American landmarks—Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Ellis Island, the USS Constitution (Charlestown, Massachusetts), the home of Thomas Jefferson in Virginia, and the home of George Washington at Mount Vernon, Virginia.


At Mount Vernon, 101 candidates for citizenship from 45 countries gathered on the bowling green in front of Washington's mansion under a bright, sunny sky to take the Oath of U.S. citizenship.


After being sworn in, the new citizens were treated to remarks by "General George Washington," who made the short walk from his mansion to remind us that, back when this American experiment got started, everyone else in the world was under the rule of some king, emperor, monarch, baron, potentate, or some other despot.  The American colonists wanted to try ruling themselves.


In the 234 years since General Washington led the fight against the British, America has been a beacon for millions of people escaping the despots of their era.  It is the continual infusion of these prospective Americans that has made our system the most dynamic in the world. 


The new citizens on Mt. Vernon's bowling green on July 4th may or may not have fled political or religious persecution imposed by the despots of our day.  They are more likely to have come to join family or to seek opportunities that exist here because of those who have come before them and renounced old allegiances in ceremonies similar to this one. 


Their contributions in the years ahead will ensure the U.S. continues to be a dynamic society, so that future generations will continue to see the United States as the land of opportunity.

Photo: Maurice Belanger

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