Rasmus Jorgensen | April 27, 2017
If the hundreds of people who walked into Washington Hall weren’t already chanting “U-S-A!” in their heads last Tuesday, April 18, around noon, the organizers of the “special naturalization oath ceremony” did everything in their power to change that. The scene of the theatre was set with the sights and sounds of independence — marching drums and flutes and pictures of great American moments and places: the 1969 moon landing, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Rushmore, firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001.
I am no American. Yet. That’s regrettable, for Americans are a remarkable people. Your accomplishments are astonishing. Your attitudes towards work, family and freedom are known around the world. But, while most Americans and their ancestors are responsible for that impression abroad, the vast majority of you didn’t choose to be Americans, your citizenship no more than a coincidence of birth.
Of those people who walked into the theatre that the French-born Father Sorin named after the United States’ first president, 100 were different from you. They walked in as foreigners. Now they are Americans, by choice.
With a “Hear ye!” times three, the session of the U.S. District Court of Northern Indiana was opened. Lisa Baumann, the immigration service officer in charge of presenting the class of soon-to-be citizens said, to the amusement of everyone, “When I call your name please stand, and if I mispronounce it please stand anyway.”
“Don’t you wish everyone had a simple name like DeGuilio?” Judge Jon E. DeGuilio asked the group. As each person stood, some had with them the flag of their new country.
South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, the ceremony’s keynote speaker, who could have easily made the same joke as DeGuilio, acknowledged that it is not easy to obtain naturalization, and that it requires patience. “I am on the very last step of a very long road,” he said, but citizenship is a privilege and that is why it is difficult to get.