There’s a lot to learn, and remember, on all sides of the road to U.S. citizenship.
BEFORE RECITING the Pledge of Allegiance, before walking on stage one-by-one to receive their naturalization certificates, the newly minted citizens at the swearing-in ceremony in this week’s cover story were treated to two videos.
The first was President Donald Trump welcoming the newest Americans, a fitting choice. He is, after all, the leader of our country, however controversial his words and policies on immigrants and refugees.
The second video was a patriotic montage featuring the 1983 Lee Greenwood anthem “God Bless the U.S.A.,” which the country-music star performed at Trump’s inauguration and at those of presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Greenwood has said that he never intended the song to be political, though, or associated with a particular party.
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Osbaldo Hernandez, who is featured in the story, remembers that some in the audience booed during Trump’s video, which, given the First Amendment protections just extended to them during the naturalization swearing-in ceremony, they had every right to do.
They worked hard to earn the right to freely express themselves. Naturalized citizens like Hernandez and the hundreds of thousands of others who are sworn in each year nationwide have to know more about the country than most of us who are citizens by birth ever have to demonstrate in such a life-altering way.
As each man and woman was called to the stage after the videos, Greenwood’s song seemed sweet but less and less resonant in comparison to the moving scene of people from all over the world seeking and now finding permanence in an America built by people from other countries, many of whom came here under less-than-ideal circumstances, to put it mildly, but which sometimes acts as if it has forgotten this essential truth about itself.
For these new citizens, this is home. They looked genuinely grateful, even relieved.
They had to memorize civics facts to earn the privilege of citizenship. For the rest us, our responsibility is simply to remember what we’ve already learned.