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Mares: Naturalization Ceremony

01/05/12 5:55PM By Bill Mares
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(Host) Like a couple renewing their marriage vows, commentator Bill Mares recently found himself renewing his vow of national allegiance at a naturalization ceremony in Burlington.

(Mares) Those looking for relief from the meanness and hatred that afflicts our national debate over immigration would have found refuge in Courtroom 542 in the Federal building in Burlington a few weeks ago. I went there to watch a Pakistani friend and about 30 other people from around the globe, become Americans.

This monthly naturalization ceremony reminded me of a church service.  It contained a processional, a recessional, music in the form of solos of the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful," the oath of allegiance, and a speech or homily on democracy by Judge Colleen Brown.

There was a Color Guard, from the American Legion, representatives of the Daughters of the American Revolution, various staff members of the US citizenship and Immigration Service, and those proud and nervous men and women from Peru, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Belarus, Burundi, Congo, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Russia and Pakistan.

In her civic homily Judge Brown's ethnic metaphor for the country was not a melting pot, or a salad bowl, but the collage. She invited the immigrants to add their unique texture, color, shape and size to America's grand and ever-changing national design.

She noted that the founding principles of freedom of expression and of religion and freedom from fear of repression carried with them a kindred duty of respect and toleration for the equal rights of others.

Then William Fagan the courtroom deputy, bravely walked through the phonetic forest of these polyglot names. Together, they followed Judge Brown in the powerful Oath of Allegiance. Solemnly, they declared that they would "absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince potentate, state or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen... I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same... and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion, so help me God."

After that joint oath Fagan called each new American forth for their certificates of citizenship. As if a liberty bell were tolling, Fagan spoke the names with the additional all-important adverb: Kazuko Uchida Jonas, formerly of Japan, Alice Alua Okuka, formerly of the Congo, Zlato Piplica formerly of Bosnia, As I watched this dignified ceremony unfold I found myself renewing my own vows to this great, flawed, diverse, bumbling political experiment called the United States of America.

And as these new Americans followed the flag into the hall, they found members of the League of Women voters ready to register them to vote. As a boost to one's own patriotism, and cause for modest New Year's optimism, this service was worth a thousand national anthems!

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