My wife & I recently had the opportunity to witness a dear friend of ours become a United States citizen. It was our first time attending a Naturalization Ceremony, so we took our daughters to witness this amazing event. Over 120 individuals from 41 countries were completing the long journey to attaining citizenship in these United States of America.
My friend was born in China in the late 70s, and he grew up learning that America truly was the land of opportunity. He spent his teenage & early college years studying in order to earn an opportunity to come to America, which he received after earning his undergraduate degree in China. He studied physics and astronomy, and became an actuary, passing all 10 exams required for that position. He is the smartest person I know, and I am honored to call him my friend.
He met his wife during this post-graduate education, and they started a family which now includes a beautiful little girl and two energetic, smart young boys. Throughout their journey, they continued to meet the challenging requirements in order to some day become US citizens. After passing a rigorous citizenship exam, the day had come for my friend to take the Oath of Allegiance and become a fully naturalized United States citizen.
I knew this was a big deal, but as I entered the room full of people from all over the world, seeing the joy on their faces, I realized this was more than a big deal, this was a life-changing event. This was the finish line for not just one marathon, but for a hundred marathons, and these 120 individuals had completed the race.
What stood out to me the most is what is required by a naturalized citizen, which is much more than I have ever learned or declared in my lifetime as a citizen by birth. Not only were these individuals required to pledge their allegiance to the United States, but they were also required to renounce any allegiance to their former countries, and it made me wonder how much I would want to be somewhere to completely renounce everything I knew from the time I was a small child? How great must my love be for this place called America to give all of that up?
The truth is, those of us who are born in America rarely appreciate what we have been given by way of birth, and I doubt any of us have even read, much less pledged, the words in the Oath of Allegiance. As an oath requiring devotion and commitment to give the last full measure of devotion to the United States, it would be wise for us to take a moment to read this oath, consider its demands, and appreciate what immigrants sacrifice to become a part of the fabric of America.
So congratulations to my dear friend for achieving a truly great accomplishment. And congratulations to you for taking the time to learn about this incredible journey and for appreciating that which you were given simply because you were born within the geographical boundaries of the United States of America.