As we all bicker among ourselves, divided over controversial issues, 200 people in Wheaton reminded us all on Monday what makes this country great.
"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..."
An enthusiastic crowd of friends and family members looked on with pride and applauded when the Oath was completed.
President Barack Obama, in a recorded video message, reminded the new citizens that with their status comes a new duty:
"With the privilege of citizenship ... comes great responsibility," Obama said. "I ask that you use your freedoms and your talents to contribute to the good of our nation and our world. Always remember in America no dream is impossible."
In fact, it is those very freedoms and opportunities that attracted many of the immigrants.
The Oath is just the final step in a long naturalization process. Candidates must meet several requirements, including residing as a permanent resident in the U.S. for at least 5 years, having a basic understanding of the English language, and demonstrating "good moral character."
Applicants must also take an exam that tests their knowledge of American democracy and civics. It is likely that many of the immigrants know American government better than some natural-born citizens! Would you know the answers to the following questions from the actual test?
• Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?
• There were 13 original states. Name three.
• How many amendments does the Constitution have?
• We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
• In what year was the Constitution written?
Hmm... before any of us go spouting off about patriotism or national loyalty, it might be a good time for us to brush up on our country's basic fundamentals.
Matt Bartosik, a "between blogs" blogger, can name the three branches of the government.