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Celebrating Citizenship

cit�i�zen�ship 1: the status of being a citizen   2 a: membership in a community

Status is a technical term, albeit an important one. But "membership in a community" is what often comes to mind when we hear the term "citizenship."  Whether we refer to it as "being part of," "belonging," "fitting in," or "being accepted," it could be argued that this state of being, or the desire to achieve it, is among life's most profound and urgent motivations. It is often at the root of our need to look fashionable and lose weight, to become well known in our occupational fields of choice, to join clubs, to make friends, to learn a new language, to vote. Sadly, alienation--the opposite of being part of--has been blamed for everything from poverty to mass murders, and many other social ills.

So it comes as no surprise that so many who were unsafe or dejected in their native lands, who have sought freedom and community elsewhere, and who struggled to fit in, consider the day of their naturalization ceremony to be the most important of their lives. Those of us who have never known the horrors of human rights transgressions or even a basic lack of democracy, may never fully conceive of their elation. But whether we've become citizens through birth or naturalization, citizenship means belonging, and it's a privilege, a right and a status worth celebrating!

So Happy Citizenship Day!

That's right, September 17th is Citizenship Day in the USA.

In 1939, in conjunction with a trend towards recognizing and honoring citizens, William Randolph Hearst set the stage for an official holiday through prominent discussions in his chain of daily newspapers.  Following suit in 1940, Congress designated the third Sunday in May as I am an American Day.

In 1952, President Harry Truman officiated the holiday, signing a bill which actually changed both the name and date, but maintained the premise. With that, September 17th was declared Citizenship Day. (Some Americans continue to observe the May holiday, despite the change.)

Interestingly enough, we found a press release dated September 17, 1997 that reads "Mayor Guiliani Proclaims September 17th as Citizenship Day." Perhaps Rudy didn't realize that someone had already been there and done that, about 45 years earlier. If this was indeed the case, it is not quite the coincidence you might think: September 17th, after all, is the day that the Constitution of the United States was signed in 1787. What better date for a holiday that honors both native-born and naturalized citizens of the USA?

Today, across the country, various civil and government groups gather together to discuss, honor and celebrate the privileges and responsibilities of US citizenship. The entire week, from September 13th through September 17th is US Constitution Week, so for the very patriotic--or the very zealous--this is a week-long affair.

We know of a few people who will be especially proud and grateful today.

One friend of ours, Raznik, waited over 12 years, and was finally sworn in last month after emotionally defending the fact that he was born Iranian. His wife, who had applied at the same time, had been sworn in years earlier, perhaps, as Raznik believes, because she was female and less "suspicious." When he talked about his ceremony, tears swelled in his eyes. He was finally being told that his contributions to our society and the US work force mean something and will afford him certain rights. "You can share my story, please" he told us. "I am an American now."

An August 30th article in the Chicago Tribune featured a local ceremony for new citizens in Elgin, Chicago:

Gaining citizenship "was my greatest accomplishment and I'll never forget it," said 22 year old college student Salvador Garcia. Seventeen years earlier his family fled their homeland, El Salvador, at the height of a civil war.

In another recent recount, a ("happily married") woman of 63 proclaimed her swearing in the "the most exciting moment" or her life, "even more special" than her wedding day. And of course, countless others mirror these sentiments every day.

Again, and perhaps thankfully, many of us are not always 100% focused on how lucky we are. If we've never had to abandon our motherland to seek refuge in a new country, or never experienced the denial, loss or violation of our civil liberties, it may be difficult to completely comprehend the overwhelming sanctity afforded us all by American Citizenship. But on September 17th, let's take a moment to do just that.

Today, we dedicate our site to the good citizens of all countries, and to those who are currently working hard to become the citizen of a new one.

No matter what your country or countries of citizenship we hope you have a reason to celebrate today.

Jennifer and Peter

More on Citizenship from About and the Web:

Personal Experience With the Citizenship Exam
from our US Government Resources/Info. Guide

Mark Twain on Education and Citizenship
from BoondocksNet.com

All About Citizenship
from yours truly, the Immigration Guides

Citizenship Day
from Patriotism.Org

Immigration Forum Citizenship Campaign
from the Immigration Forum

Dual Citizenship FAQ
by Rich Wales

And of course, we can't forget to mention that you're always invited to become a citizen of our little world, the Immigration Issues community, where you can have your own web page, voice your views, questions and concerns in our forum and chat room and give us your feedback to let us know what you need from this site: we built it for you. (Holidays like this bring out the cheese in us, go easy!)

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� Peter and Jennifer Wipf 1999-2002.  All rights reserved. No duplication without explicit written permission.

From Jennifer Leavitt-Wipf,
Your Guide to Immigration Issues.
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