When my wife finally got her date for citizenship, it was a big deal. I really didn’t know what to say…after living together for two years, then being married for three years, it seemed like she was already a citizen to me. So when we went to the Masonic Auditorium a few weeks ago for the ceremony, it was cool and I thought it would be interesting but I had no idea how emotional I’d get.
Seeing 1,214 people gathered from 99 countries along with their families was just plain awesome. To know that each one had a different story on how they came to be there that morning–from as far away as Eureka, 300 miles to the north–just to say the words of the oath, seemed impossibly joyous. And the host of the ceremonies, a man from the Office of U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services, was a wonderful host.
One of the most breath-catching interjections he made during the ceremony came when he discussed the significance of the certificate of naturalization they would all be receiving to certify their citizenship. He kept saying over and over, “Do not give your certificate to anyone…do not mail it, do not carry it on you. If an officer of the law stops you, from now on, all you have to do is say, ‘I’m an American citizen,’ and that’s it.” Breathtaking to think of the power of simplicity in that statement which I take for granted every day, but which instilled fear in the hearts of many during every hour spent here.