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Archive for Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Irish immigrant celebrates her American citizenship, cherishes new right to vote

Eileen Roddy, right, of Lawrence, gets an American flag from Angie Solomon on March 26 following the naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens at the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. Roddy came to the U.S. from Northern Ireland. Solomon is an auxiliary member of Wyandotte American Legion Post 83.

Eileen Roddy, right, of Lawrence, gets an American flag from Angie Solomon on March 26 following the naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens at the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. Roddy came to the U.S. from Northern Ireland. Solomon is an auxiliary member of Wyandotte American Legion Post 83.

March 30, 2010

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Eileen Roddy, left, chats with Dewey Fry right, and Richard Cox following the ceremony for Naturalization for new citizens at the U.S. District Court Mar. 26, 2010 in Kansas City, Kan. Both men are members of the Sons of the American Revolution from the Delaware Crossing Chapter.

Eileen Roddy, left, chats with Dewey Fry right, and Richard Cox following the ceremony for Naturalization for new citizens at the U.S. District Court Mar. 26, 2010 in Kansas City, Kan. Both men are members of the Sons of the American Revolution from the Delaware Crossing Chapter.

Eileen Roddy, right, of Lawrence, gets an American flag from Angie Solomon on March 26 following the naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens at the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. Roddy came to the U.S. from Northern Ireland. Solomon is an auxiliary member of Wyandotte American Legion Post 83.

Eileen Roddy, right, of Lawrence, gets an American flag from Angie Solomon on March 26 following the naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens at the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. Roddy came to the U.S. from Northern Ireland. Solomon is an auxiliary member of Wyandotte American Legion Post 83.

Eighty-three people from 30 different countries take the oath of allegiance during the ceremony for Naturalization for new citizens at the U.S. District Court Mar. 26, 2010 in Kansas City, Kan.

Eighty-three people from 30 different countries take the oath of allegiance during the ceremony for Naturalization for new citizens at the U.S. District Court Mar. 26, 2010 in Kansas City, Kan.

Eileen Roddy, right, raises her hand during the oath of allegiance during the ceremony for Naturalization for new citizens at the U.S. District Court  Mar. 26, 2010 in Kansas City, Kan.

Eileen Roddy, right, raises her hand during the oath of allegiance during the ceremony for Naturalization for new citizens at the U.S. District Court Mar. 26, 2010 in Kansas City, Kan.

When I met and married my husband, Don Phillips, in London in 1997 and moved to Kansas, I thought my stay here would be temporary.

I didn’t apply for American citizenship because I wanted to retain my hard-earned voting rights in Ireland. The U.S. government issued me a green card, declared I was a legal resident alien and gave me permission to live and work here until March 2010.

As my residency extended, I increasingly found myself sitting somewhat on the edge of political conversations.

“On the edge?” you might well ask.

Yes, partly due to that somewhat polite British attitude of trying to be respectful and uncritical of others’ political systems when you are in their country.

I felt some agitation with Americans who criticized their politicians but refused to vote or try to change things.

And so I began to change my mind about where I fit in the United States.

As I observed the political excitement during the last U.S. presidential election, as I talked with descendants of freed slaves, and as I realized my stay here was permanent and my alien status was coming to an end, I decided to apply for American citizenship to earn the right to vote and become more politically involved.

After a process of some months — during which very long forms were filled, historical facts learned, memorized and tested, interviews and background checks completed — I was deemed fit to be numbered among this country’s citizens. I was invited to attend a naturalization ceremony last Friday — my 13th wedding anniversary — at the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kan.

I arrived way too early and was excited beyond belief. I was joined by 82 other about-to-be citizens from 30 countries, including Slovakia, South Korea, Russia, Mexico, China, Iran, Brazil and Peru. They included people from all walks of life: doctors, translators, professors, chemists, KU students and homemakers.

I was the only one from Ireland. After final forms were processed, naturalization certificates checked and green cards handed in, we were led to the courtroom, seated and told about the ceremony.

“Welcome and congratulations to each one of you,” said presiding Judge Carlos Murguia as he opened the official ceremony.

Making votes count

The term “gerrymandering” was coined in the United States in 1812 when Massachusetts Gov. Eldridge Gerry signed a bill that redrew and distorted electoral boundaries to benefit his Democratic-Republican party and minimize the impact of the opposing Federalist party votes. The Supreme Court affirmed the “one man, one vote” principle in 1962, and ruled gerrymandering unconstitutional in 1985.

The Northern Ireland Unionist Party introduced gerrymandering in the 1920s to recreate boundaries and ensure the election of Unionist Councils in areas like Derry where the Nationalist party had a high majority. The process continued until 1972, when the British government suspended Northern Ireland’s Parliament. The single transferable vote system was used for the first time in Northern Ireland’s 1973 elections. The balance of power shifted from the Unionist Party, and a more democratic form of government emerged. My vote finally counted. It was a privilege I never took for granted.

“This is a milestone for you and for America. You are our newest citizens and we value and appreciate the great richness and diversity you bring to our country. I thank you for the sacrifices you have made to get to this point, and look forward to the contribution you will make to this great country of ours.”

He encouraged us to participate proudly and fully in America’s future while retaining what was best from our cultures of origin and then invited us to stand for the oath of allegiance.

I stood on wobbly legs, raised my right hand and, loudly and proudly, publicly promised to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.”

Family, friends, U.S. immigration and court officials, and representatives of various civic organizations, including the League of Women Voters, applauded.

I cried shamelessly.

The ceremony marked a moving moment in my personal and political journey that started in Derry, Northern Ireland. Like many in this country, I’d been involved in the long civil rights struggle to make my vote and that of others count. In my earlier years, gerrymandering was rife in Northern Ireland and my vote was rendered useless because of how political boundaries were drawn.

Now here I was, a newly minted American citizen with the right and the responsibility to vote and stand for political office if I so choose.

When Wyandotte County District Judge Dan Duncan encouraged us to take our new responsibility to vote seriously I suppressed the urge to stand and cheer. After all, it was a pretty solemn occasion and I’d promised Don I would behave.

Joy welled within me when Murguia invited us, America’s newest citizens, to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner.” As court employee Tami Anthony sang, this American citizen stood proudly, placed my hand over my heart and gratefully acknowledged all those from previous generations and cultures who fought hard, even sacrificed their lives, to earn for me and future generations the right to vote and live in freedom in this “land of the free and home of the brave.”

At the ceremony’s end, naturalization certificate and husband in hand, I made a beeline to the League of Women Voters’ table. I registered to vote, full of joy and confidence that my vote, as an American citizen, would count and make a difference.

Comments

Bassetlover 4 years ago

Fabulous article! Got a big lump in my throat reading it. So happy to count her as one of "us" now. She'll be a great asset. Congrats to you and welcome aboard!

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jjt 4 years ago

I have been able to interview Eileen a number of times for my show, she is always a delight and someone who understands the great need for a decent cup of tea. We have had many "larfs" at all the funny accents around here. One pays tax in one place and it can actually be more onerous here than there. Even with Nat Health. Northern Ireland's politics is something to behold. It is very sobering stepping into and traveling down in a lift with a real live terrorist except that he is now an elected NIA member, so not really a terrorist, but may be he did kill people, but that's ok coz we have peace there now. More or less.

Good for you Eileen, B Wishes, Jeremy and Kath

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Kookamooka 4 years ago

As a newly minted Republican all she needs to do now is run down to the local pawn shop and pack some heat. God, its good to be an American!

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gravitykills 4 years ago

Eileen is a great example of America. She did what was needed to become a citizen and it's a proud moment for all. I just hope she's not absolutely shocked when, in the near future, the Gov't allows 12 million illegal aliens US citizenship with the stroke of a pen.

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notjustyoureverydayaveragetrol 4 years ago

I hope that she isn't planning on moving to massachusetts any time soon, they appareantly aren't to fond of the Irish.

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notjustyoureverydayaveragetrol 4 years ago

I hope that she isn't planning on moving to massachusetts any time soon, they appareantly aren't to fond of the Irish.

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Paul R Getto 4 years ago

Good job and I hope you can help convince others to vote and participate. I went to one of these ceremonies once and it brought me to tears. We are so fortunate to be born here. We are also fortunate we don't have to pass the citizenship test to get to vote!

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none2 4 years ago

This is a wonderful article. Congratulations on Eileen's citizenship. One thing I do wonder about is dual citizenship. I think I understand how it works for children born in one country to parents from another country. However, I always wondered how it worked with adults. As much time as Eileen lived in Northern Ireland, I would think it would be hard not to have an interest in politics there. I suppose the big draw back to dual citizenship would be a possible obligation to pay taxes to both countries.

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redrose 4 years ago

Congratulations Eileen!

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christy kennedy 4 years ago

Yes, welcome, and thank you. Great article.

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Stuart Evans 4 years ago

I dated a lady several years ago who became a citizen through this process. What I learned then, and what I read here, has shown me that those who work hard to become a citizen often appreciate our country and our politics more than those of us who have lived with it our whole lives. Welcome to your country Eileen; I hope you make the best of choices with your new found voting rights.

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galwaygal 4 years ago

Congratulations! I'm so happy to welcome you as my fellow citizen! My husband & I are the descendants of Irish immigrants. So, although we have never met, you're as welcome as the flowers in May!

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Ralph Gage 4 years ago

I'm so pleased to count Eileen and Don as friends. Cheers!

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ctrowbridge 4 years ago

Thanks, FreeKansas. You're absolutely right about descendants! Thanks again for the catch. - Caroline Trowbridge, assignment director

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years ago

Yes, welcome Eileen, I suspect that being a citizen means more to someone who has worked for it than someone who was born to it. Even those of us who have been out of school for some time can make the effort to learn about what is going on in the country and the world. The library has some great new non-fiction books about politics and the histories of other countries. In Afghanistan is a good one, and a bit of a shocker, as least it was to me, when I read about what has been going on over there.

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jackpot 4 years ago

Now that you can vote something tells me that you will know more about the people you are voting for then 90% of the other voters. I second Lucy, congratulations and welcome.

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FreeKansas 4 years ago

“As I observed the political excitement during the last U.S. presidential election, as I talked with ancestors of freed slaves,”

I think you mean descendants of freed slaves,….unless you practice voodoo. .

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ilovelucy 4 years ago

Heartiest congratulations Eileen!

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