Saturday, December 02, 2006

the american citizenship ceremony

my friend became an american citizen on tuesday. feeling very happy for my friend, and interested in what happens at the ceremony, i decided to go.

in san francisco, the swearing in ceremony is done at an old freemason building. as i walked in, i marveled at how the building was designed so that the light hit the masonic eye and lit it up. it was actually a bit eerie.

but as for the ceremony.. well, there were over 1300 people receiving their citizenship that day, so i was initially freaked out that they would read every single person's name. thank god they didn't. instead, they read originating country names, and people from each country stood up. can you guess what the top 4 countires were?

there were oaths and anthems and singing and dancing.. well, no dancing, but people, understandably, were quite excited. the swearing in itself was actually quite moving. it was nice to see so many family and friends in the audience (and many, many babies. the crying was non-stop!)

a few things struck me as odd, and i wanted to record them here:
- the Department of Homeland Security laptop used for the presentation was running Windows 98
- certain parts of the oath might go against people's religions beliefs, and so certain parts can be stricken from the oath you agree to (it wasn't clear to me which parts could be stricken.. maybe just the god stuff? obviously you can't strike the defending nation parts). anyway, they only read one oath for everyone to repeat, so the moderator suggested that when they got to the part that the person could not swear to, they should put down their hand and not repeat the words. i thought that was interesting
- the citizenship certificate is really quite beautiful. very well designed
- now the keynote speech. this speech was weak, in my opinion. the speaker, a judge, used a trick you learn in grade 1. namely, take a word or set of words (in this case "US citizen") and use each letter in the words to anchor your thoughts. so in this case we had:

U - united
S - strength
C - community
I - initiative
T - trust
I - integrity
Z - zeal
E - education
N - new

i think readers will agree that there are some weak spots here. for "e," i would've expected something like "equality." on the other hand, it is a broad audience with differing education levels and english literacy levels
- finally, they played the song "proud to be an american." now, this is a very patriotic song, with what i think are some odd lyrics. this line "i'm proud to be an american where at least i know i'm free" gives me a lot of trouble. why the words "at least"? i suppose it's trying to suggest that the baseline is freedom, which cannot be said for many countries. however, it also suggests that all you might get is freedom, but what good is freedom if you can't enjoy it? but that takes us into a wholly different topic, which i won't broach here.


james said...

my guess for the top 4 countries: Mexico, China, India and Russia.

So I don't think I'll ever become an US citizen... I very proud to be Canadian.

Halldor said...

Amazing lyrics:

'Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can't take that away'

Ummm... They can, in Guantanamo

james said...

Guantanamo is CUBA! No Freedom in CUBA. That's the way things are, and the American Naval Base is just trying to fit in... you know. Peer pressure is very cruel sometimes.

omar said...


you are very close on your guess! the top was mexico, by a wide margin, and then india, china, and the philippines all had about the same amount. russia didn't have very many.

i was pretty surprised about the philippines. i didn't know there was such a large population here (though someone later told me there was).

as to becoming american: the thing is, if i plan to live here for quite a long time, then i want the right to vote and i want to be considered a full citizen. but if i do move out of the country, then the point is somewhat moot.

halldor: i'm glad the us supreme court finally recognized the problems at gitmo in the hamdan vs rumsfeld ruling.

omar said...

actually halldor, your comment is particularly well-timed given today's nytimes article on the treatment of the us citizen jose padilla. his years of isolation and interrogation have caused him to lose his mind to a certain degree.