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Archive for Tuesday, September 16, 2003

A reminder

Last week’s naturalization ceremony in Lawrence should be a reminder of the gift of being a United States citizen.

September 16, 2003

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Sometime, it takes a newcomer to make us really appreciate what we have.

That may be the case with the 150 people who became American citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the Dole Institute of Politics last week. The comments and stories of some of those new citizens might make many native-born Americans look at their citizenship a bit differently.

Adrian Barajas, for instance, came to the ceremony from Fort Riley, where he was serving in the U.S. Army even before he became a citizen. By now, Barajas, a native of Mexico, may be on his way to Iraq with his unit; he was scheduled to ship out this week.

Josef Rantner, a native of Austria, also took the oath of U.S. citizenship last Thursday. He said he knew he wanted to be a citizen after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He said he felt like members of his own family were attacked and he was truly an American.

Rantner's first act after receiving citizenship, he said, would be to register to vote. "I can't wait to get that dumb sticker that says 'I voted.'" he said. It's obviously an act that too many American-born people take for granted.

Despite all the problems some Americans see in their own country, there still were 150 people from other nations around the world eager to pledge their allegiance to the United States during the ceremony on the Kansas University campus, just one of many such ceremonies taking place across the country each year.

They have come to the United States for various reasons. They came to study or join other family members or they came in search of a better life. And after spending some time here, they decided they wanted to be part of the American family and a democratic system that fosters the most free and opportunity-laden society in the world.

Those of us who were born here sometimes may forget just how fortunate we are to have those freedoms and opportunities as a birthright. Seeing people who have made a conscious choice to join with a nation that wasn't theirs by birth is a reminder of how great a country this really is.

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