Izraelevitz: The Honor And Blessing Of Becoming An American Citizen

Los Alamos County Council Chair

When the Publisher of this newspaper asked if I would write a column celebrating the Fourth of July, I couldn’t help but look back to the previous July 4th at the Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center, where I was invited to speak at a new citizenship ceremony. I shared with them my feelings about the honor and blessing of becoming an American citizen as an adult. I hope you will enjoy an abbreviated version of my talk.

July 4, 2017

Thank you very much for your invitation to speak here today. I am not sure that I can fully express the honor I feel and the memories that come to me at this moment as someone who also went through this ceremony so many years ago.

Those of you who have taken this solemn oath today share a moment in this beautiful canyon but have all taken a different journey to be here. Each of you now bring to America those past experiences overcoming past challenges, whether it was learning a new language, or a new skill, or leaving familiar places and cultures behind. But as of today, the determination that brought you here to this moment has now become part of the strength of our nation.

We are here to celebrate with you this particular junction in your life’s journey. I also want to acknowledge with you those people in your life who believed in you, and gave you the opportunity to come to America, those who helped you get to this moment of achievement, and those who bore the loss of your companionship and your love so that you could be here. Because all complicated journeys, even those with happy moments such as these, are the product of sacrifice and loss …

I ask that you not let your story lie hidden in a corner of your life. I ask that you share it with your family and your friends, and if you are so blessed, with your children and grandchildren …

I also ask that you celebrate and share with the rest of your fellow Americans those qualities of the country and society that you brought with you. Your native music, cooking, and culture brings a diversity to the American amalgam that has been enriching us since the early days of the Republic. America is a melting pot, but there are still juicy chunks of every culture that has given us its children. In every society there is immigration, but in the United States, immigration is part and parcel of who we are as a nation; it is part of our psyche, our mythology, maybe I can even call it our soul …

Maybe some of us feel as new citizens it is impolite to criticize this country that has welcomed us. But to feel this way is not, I believe, what this nation expects of us. America thrives on discourse and argument, freedom of speech and the press are fundamental values we hold dear and expect for all citizens, new and old. Like that first time you sit at your in-law’s dinner table when you are first married, you may feel too polite to contradict or interrupt the conversation, but you are really part of the family when your voice is as loud and as strident as that of any one else around the table…

There is no question that these are difficult times for this family. Which is why we are fortunate that you have joined us. We need the perspective you bring to America, because you have seen America from a distance. We need the wisdom and courage you bring as well, because you have lived without America’s blessings and know just how precious and fragile they can be. And, finally, we need the generosity you will bring toward the stranger, because you know what it is to be a stranger and to be welcomed.

But, you are strangers no longer, you are part of the family. So, allow me to be one of the first to welcome you to your new family, the United States of America.

Thank you.