Choosing America. Choosing a place to call home.

I’ve been just a teeny weeny bit excited about taking my class to see the US Citizenship Naturalization Ceremony at our Public Library this week.  Maybe you saw me mention it once or twice?

For me, being born and raised in the states, America always has been home. I’m sure there is much I take for granted. As with my own family, even though I get frustrated and angry with the relatives, I love this country with all my heart.  That’s probably why I get so riled up about the political climate or climate change. Being born and raised as an American citizen, I marvel at those who leave their homes and choose America. I can’t even imagine what that moment of becoming must be like, how much weight it must carry — or how they probably carry two countries in their hearts.

So finally being able to see and be part of a naturalization ceremony was thrilling for me. My teaching partner and I, with our 25 students, were able to welcome 28 new American citizens, from nine different countries, to the United States. As these new Americans took their oath of citizenship, we were there to witness and be part of their American story.

We are close enough to the public library that our field trip transportation was easy — we walked.  I set a brisk pace so we’d get there on time, and the kids kept up.  Each carried with them a carnation with a card that they signed.  I was touched to read what they’d written.  Some just signed their names, but others signed it “Your new friend” or “Your new neighbor.” I tell you — these kids have heart.

The ceremony got started with the National Anthem , sung by two teenagers from our school district. It was a solemn occasion and each speaker got a little choked up as they talked about the roads each of the men and women had taken to come to their new home. They talked about the awesome responsibility it is to be an American, about how much is required of our citizens. The spoke about the power of voting and of giving back to their new communities. As they spoke, I couldn’t help but remember my own grandmother, with her two sons, making the trip across the ocean in the cargo hold of a ship.  Their journey is one I really should write about. It’s another unique square in the patchwork quilt that is the American experience.

Each journey to this would-be home requires a leap of faith — a hope for more, for better, for a life fulfilled. Today, how lucky were we to witness and cheer for our neighbors, new Americans. I hope our kids remember this and that, in some small way, it makes us all better citizens.

You can watch our new citizens take their oath of citizenship by clicking on the link here: Oath of Citizenship

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