My late step-mother, Tippy, was born and raised in Thailand. She had her “green card” for several years before she met dad. In her heart, she wanted to become a naturalized citizen. Even though Tippy had a working knowledge of English and the structure of the United States government, she needed more in order to pass the citizenship test.
Once each month, she drove to Omaha to attend a workshop to help her comprehend what is needed to successfully pass the test. Tippy was a real trooper when it came to her English lessons and knowledge of general American civics. I wasn’t surprised, because she was a perfectionist and stickler for details in other areas of her life, too.
Dad accompanied Tippy to Omaha on her test day so that he could ease her case of nerves and also help with any last minute questions she might have. She need not have worried, the exam went smoothly. All Tippy had to do next was attend the naturalization ceremony.
My step-mom was one of several naturalized United States citizens I’ve had the pleasure to know. My friend Jorge was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. He was naturalized in Los Angeles at the age of 21. Jorge is one of the few people, I know, who sets aside time to celebrate today’s holiday as Citizenship Day.
The official name of the holiday is rather cumbersome. The previous holiday, “I Am An American Day”, was renamed and combined with the day the U.S. Constitution is celebrated. In 2004, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd sponsored an amendment to that year’s Omnibus Spending Bill to rename the holiday. Ever since then, the official name is “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day”.
The law also requires schools and colleges, that receive public funding, to provide educational lessons about the history of the US Constitution on this holiday. If you have a child, in school, he or she may be involved in extra studies or some sort of “Constitution Quiz” to enhance their civic awareness.
As a general rule of thumb, I’ve noticed that people who have acquired citizenship through the naturalization process seem more secure and less strident in their patriotic attitudes than many people who became citizens by default, because they were born and raised here.
Jorge is a living encyclopaedia of the United States. Name a State of the Union. He’ll fire back with the name of its capital city, where it is located on a map, what its primary economic product is, and a rough population estimate. Ask him any general civics question. He’ll give you a quick reply.
There are many people, born in the USA, who cannot answer basic questions like these: How many stripes on the US flag? (13) Why that many? (They represent the original British colonies.) What is the full name of the Vice-President of the US? (Joseph Robinette Biden) Who was the second President of the United States? (John Adams) How many US Supreme Court Justices are currently serving? (nine)
How many US Representatives from your State are in office? (Jorge is from Colorado, so there are seven from his State.) Can you name the Representative from your Congressional District? (Republican Mike Coffman represents Jorge in Colorado’s 6th District.) (Republican Jeff Fortenberry represents me in Nebraska’s 1st District.)
These aren’t just trivia game questions and answers, this information is important in order for us to be effective, informed citizens. These aspects are part of the workings of our country and the US Constitution that can work for us. All we need, is to put forth a little effort to utilize them.
Many people denigrate the importance of voting. Jorge has voted in every election that he’s been qualified to participate in. The same goes for me. Regardless of how seemingly insignificant the ballot, I’ve never missed marking my choices. Even if a person feels that Presidential elections may somehow be “rigged”, there are other offices to be filled and referenda to be decided.
Although everybody has the constitutional right to express their opinions, I think those opinions carry more weight if they are backed up with knowledge about all sides of an issue or politician. A complaint is really valid, if the complainer has bothered to vote.
Most of us are citizens in the participatory democratic- republic that is the United States of America. This is the day that naturalized and native born citizens celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. I hope you can take a few moments, today, to realize just how fortunate we are.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this statement from former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. “I think if the people of this country can be reached with the truth, their judgment will be in favor of the many, as against the privileged few.”