The Newest Citizens

By Kathleen Farmer

I became an American citizen by accident of birth, merely by being born in the USA. I have received all the benefits of citizenship without ever having to make a conscious choice, without ever having to swear to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign or domestic.”

I came to a sudden and new realization of how little has been asked of me when I participated for the first time in one of the monthly naturalization ceremonies conducted by the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. On Thursday, November 16, 2006, in a federal courtroom packed with friends, family and observers, 65 women and men from 34 countries took the oath of American citizenship and became citizens by deliberate choice, after a considerable expenditure of the energy and effort needed to meet all of the prerequisites.

In the Dayton area, Judge Walter Herbert Rice presides over the regular monthly naturalization ceremonies, administering the Oath of American Citizenship, scheduling important members of the local community to speak to the new citizens and inviting members of local service organizations to provide them with information of interest and use for all citizens.

On November 16, Dr. Francis Conte (former Dean of and now a full-time professor at the University of Dayton School of Law) was the keynote speaker. Representatives from a wide variety of organizations (the Dayton Bar Association, the Jewish War Veterans, the Sertoma Club, the American Red Cross, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the League of Women Voters, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the Social Security Administration and the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center) joined Judge Rice, Judge Thomas Rose and U.S. Magistrate Judges Michael Merz and Sharon Ovington in welcoming these 65 individuals into American citizenship.

Sharon Harmer (LWVGDA President Elect, 2007) briefly described the mission of the LWV and provided each new citizen with an envelope containing a voter registration application and information about local elected officials. As I helped Sharon hand out these envelopes, I was both thrilled and humbled by the event and by the opportunity to shake hands with these marvelously diverse new additions to the greatness of America.

I urge others to volunteer to attend future naturalization ceremonies on behalf of the League. For more information, including dates and times of ceremonies and the full text of the Oath of American Citizenship, visit the LWVGDA website under the heading “Naturalization.”