[By Nic Lindh on Friday, 25 August 2006]
Today was the Big Day: My Naturalization Ceremony. So now I have a piece of paper that says I’m just as much a citizen of the United States as anybody else. During the ceremony, 106 people from 32 countries became citizens, which is pretty darn cool.
The ceremony itself took place at the Sandra Day O’Connor United States Courthouse in downtown Phoenix, a pretty strange building—it’s like what would happen if somebody told Stanley Kubrick to build a Ramada Inn.
A naturalization proceeding is a federal legal matter, so we had a judge and everything.
Being not much of a pomp-and-circumstance kind of person, I would have been happy with filing in, taking the Oath of Allegiance, and going on my merry way, but that was not to be. The whole process took over three hours, a significant chunk of which was taken up by us listening to the stories of other freshly-minted citizens in the room.
The immigration officer asked everybody if they would like to say a few words about their journey and I, of course, declined—just like my wedding, the main objective was to keep the ceremony as short as possible. Plus, “I came here from Sweden where things were actually pretty good” doesn’t quite cut it as an Inspirational Story in my book. But a few brave souls wanted to share their stories. Great. I’m expecting heart wrenching stories of crawling over minefields in the middle of the night to escape terrible persecution, but no, it’s a couple of former Mexicans who are really happy to be in the US now. Which is great, but doesn’t tug the heartstrings that much.
Then a young black man—and he was black as the night—gets up to share his story, and it turns out he was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. His English was still a bit shaky, but he was talking about how America is the land where people can do anything, and as an example he said that most people don’t think that a six-year-old can bury another person, but when he was six he buried his brothers. So people can do more than they think.
That was pretty intense.
My biggest take-away from the whole experience was how happy the government officials involved in the process seemed to be. When I presented my paperwork to the immigration official—who happened to be the one who did my interview—I asked him how he was doing, and he said, “Good. Any day I get to do this is a good day.” And seemed to mean it.
The presiding judge also seemed to really enjoy himself.
That felt really good.