Saturday, July 05, 2008

We, together...

Last Wednesday, a colleague of mine was sworn in as a new American citizen. She told me about it on Thursday and I couldn’t have felt prouder at the news. She’s not from around here, you see – and I wasn’t even aware that she was undertaking this step.

Most of us are not “from around here.” That makes me an unabashed fan of the American melting pot. Unless you’re an American aborigine, all Americans come from someplace else, or their ancestors did.

Last Wednesday, hundreds of new US citizens added to the mix that is so uniquely American. In fact, US Citizenship and Immigration officials indicated that they conduct one such ceremony every month – usually about 2,700 people are sworn in as new citizens.

It’s a continual wonder to me and I don’t take the commitments of a US citizen lightly. Neither, I think, do new American citizens. Each of us, in our time, has the opportunity and the responsibility to make our nation better, to enrich the lives of our fellow Americans through good citizenship and good works.

You may or may not believe that the French cynically gave our nation Bertholdi’s Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World as a tourist promotion. To imagine seeing it for the first time from the deck of an immigrant’s ship is spine-tingling. To actually visit it is humbling.

If you read history, you are not necessarily condemned to repeat it – yet that’s what’s happening in today’s divisive debate about immigrants. Yes, the US ought to secure its borders. Yes, many immigrants are here illegally.

But so many are not – and so many take up citizenship and responsibilities which many “born-here” compatriots do not. This is one thing that makes us great: This amazing nation, this melting pot of cultures and languages and rancorous wrangling among left, right and center.

On this day after the 4th of July, remember the arresting sonnet penned by Emma Lazarus in 1883, which appears on a bronze plaque inside the Statue’s pedestal:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land,
Here at our sea-washed, sunset- gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome, her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin-cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she,
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore;
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

On Wednesday, in Houston alone, several thousand people became new citizens. They’re joining us – or we are joining them. Together, we make up everything that is America.

Instead of complaining, what have you accomplished that is good for your neighborhood, your city, your country? Have you lifted your lamp beside our golden door lately?

Since I was on this particular kick, and because Glitzy has such an arresting collection of jewelry, I took the liberty of using another photo of an Amazing Adornments brooch – a 1940s-era Accessocraft pin made for the Kay Dunhill dress company. It bears the Latin motto E Pluribus Unum: “Out of Many, One.” That’s what the melting pot is all about.

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