Today I had the opportunity to do  something I didn’t really know I wanted to do.  It’s not the sort of thing you think about very often.  I had the opportunity to witness the naturalization ceremony for 3,357 new US citizens.  It was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and there were easily three times that number of guests on hand as well.

While advance information on what to expect was scant, we arrived nearly two hours before the ceremony actually started – one hour ahead of when my friend was instructed to be there.  A small group of us made the unpleasant drive down, excited for her but unsure what to expect.

The ceremony began with instructions in English and Spanish, followed by a video montage of various immigrants.  Over 18 million people have become citizens over the last 100 years through immigration.  There weren’t pictures of all of them, thankfully, but it was a nice enough way to begin.

The ceremony itself consisted of a brief district court session provided over by a judge.  The US Government motioned for the judge to approve the citizenship of the 3,357 people present, as they had each successfully completed all but the final necessary step for  citizenship.  The final step, the judge then informed them, was to take the citizenship oath.  All of the applicants repeated, en masse, a brief oath administered by the judge.  The oath led them to renounce their allegiances to other countries or authorities, indicated their acceptance of and willingness to follow the laws of the United States, and called on them to defend their new homeland from enemies foreign or domestic if asked to do so.

The judge gave a few brief personal remarks then, encouraging them to continue their education in learning about America, and to be constructive and productive citizens.  Another government official offered words of welcome also, and introduced three specific applicants who, although not officially citizens, had already served in the American armed forces.  There was a brief video welcome  from President Trump, followed by another patriotic music and video montage.  There was much applause and more than a few tears amidst the many, many smiles.

Of course, being America, the lobby was filled with vendors, as was the patio outside the convention center.  Food vendors selling hot dogs and sausages, fruit wedges and churros.  Inside the vendors sold nice covers for the naturalization certificate, or patriotic teddy bears and small flags to wave.  One sign insisted New US Citizens Need Flowers.  I took pictures for several different family groups celebrating the exciting day.  Over 100 different countries were represented in those 3,357 applicants.  Mexico, the Philippines, China, El Salvadore and South Korea had the highest number of applicants in this particular session.


It was a beautiful thing to witness.  To read the papers or watch the news or scan the Internet, you’d think our country was nothing but a terrible place full of terrible people, whether you define terrible in conservative or progressive terms.  Nothing but disparaging comments about how we are failing in this regard or that, how we are disintegrating from this ideology or that, how we are mere shadows of our glorious selves – and those selves weren’t that glorious to begin with.

But I was reminded today that while there is some truth in all of that, there is also the truth that does not get promoted nearly so much.  The truth that despite our faults and flaws, we remain a beacon to much of the rest of the world.  That we offer opportunities and possibilities that people in other places can only dream of.  And dream  they do.  It was a reminder that there is much worth appreciating and celebrating here.  And much worth fighting for.  But that the only way to do what needs to be done is by working together, rather than trying to force each other to do what we are so very positive is right.

These people are good reminders that it can be done.  It requires hard work and perseverance, but also listening and caring and a focus on the end result.  I hope these new citizens will help  in the process, and continue to liven this melting pot with their gifts and abilities, their perspectives and experiences.

Welcome to America.  Your new homeland.


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