The United States of America greeted 36 new adopted brothers and sisters on Friday, right here in O’Fallon. A naturalization ceremony was held where folks from 18 different nations all saw their hard work, toil, and struggle culminate in an oath to renounce their former citizenship and become US citizens.
I was informed of the ceremony by a member of the VFW Post #805 Color Guard, who were on hand to present the colors. I’m so thankful he thought to send me a message and tell me about it because it was profoundly moving.
The ceremony was an extremely joyous and, at times, even a bit informal. Family members were not only allowed but even encouraged to get up and take photos of their loved one during the proceedings. After the group took the oath of citizenship all at once, a microphone was passed from person to person and they were asked to introduce themselves, state their nation of origin, and say a few words if they so chose. What struck me was that each one of them, with maybe only one or two nervous exceptions, felt the need to add some variation of “Now an American” after they stated where they came from originally. You could feel the pride emanating from them as they were able to finally claim the US as their home.
As the microphone continued to make its way around, we heard folks not only detail why they left their home nations, but how hard they worked to become US citizens and how some still have loved ones back home. We learned some already served the United States through its military.
Listening to all of this, trying to fight back tears, I found myself oddly embarrassed. I wasn’t embarrassed to be blessed enough to be born in the United States, but rather how much I go about my daily life without realizing how fortunate I am. I kind of feel its become cliche to tell folks to feel fortunate and lucky that you’re a United States citizen, but its so true. These 36 individuals went though more than we can imagine to obtain what we were so blessed to be born with. The weight of that struck me very hard and I’ve found myself dwelling on that thought since then.
Later, I was speaking to a friend and talking about how powerful the ceremony was. I pointed out my embarrassment and how much work these folks had to do to become citizens. He pointed out how that is what makes illegal immigration such a horrible offense. These 36 people spent years of their lives to become citizens the correct and legal way. How much of a slap in the face is it when a Washington politician says we need to go ahead and give amnesty to folks that violated the system and entered the US illegally, becoming a criminal? It’s a really valid point that, while I’ve heard it before, it struck home. I have 36 examples that I can cite as those who respect the nation they want to join enough to join the right way.
The United States District Court holds naturalization ceremonies periodically. I don’t know if they are open to the public, but I can’t imagine they would mind if you asked if you could stand quietly in the back. I would highly encourage you to do so as it will not only give you a significantly deeper appreciation for your own birthright as a United States citizen, but also you can say hello to your newest brothers and sisters living the American Dream.