How Much Have We Lost?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

47 New Americans at Gunston Hall

Yesterday, I was honored to attend a naturalization ceremony for forty-seven new United States Citizens at Gunston Hall.  It was both an honor and very interesting.  You can see pictures here.

The citizen candidates hailed from 20 countries.  I have now been to about two dozen countries, but I had only been to four of the countries represented in the ceremony - it was a really interesting mix.  I had expected it to be a different group, but it says a lot to me about who is coming to the U.S. and making up our community.

I pointed out to them that about thirty-percent of all residents of the 36th District are foreign born so they are going to have lots of company! 

I also found the oath they took to be fascinating.  I had never heard that oath administered before, and it was a fresh reminder to me of our fundamental obligations as citizens of the United States.  Natural born citizens are never required to take any oath.  This made me think about how all of us should be reminded of our responsibilities.  Here is the text.
"I hereby declare, on oath, that I 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; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."
The USCIS website says that the oath is an expression of the principles set forth in the Immigration and Naturalization Act which are the following:

  1. Support the Constitution;
  2. Renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the applicant was before a subject or citizen;
  3. Support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
  4. Bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and
  5. A. Bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; or
    B. Perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; or
    C. Perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.
I was asked to talk to them about their responsibilities as citizens.  I talked to them about George Mason and the risks he took to help establish Virginia's independence from England that eventually led to the creation of the United States and the Bill of Rights.  I talked to them about Virginia's government and voting. 

Gunston Hall's Executive Director, Scott Stroh, reminded them that the George Mason was one of three members of the Constitutional Convention who did not sign the Constitution - due to its failure to incorporate any Bill of Rights of citizens.  However, he always reconciled with his political enemies.  He reminded them of our American traditions of healthy debate, dissent, and respect for others. 

At the end of the ceremony, another one of my constituents released a clutch of peace doves from the porch of Gunston Hall. As three bald eagles circled (seriously), they flew off the front porch and out over the lawn as a flock.

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