I had the privilege of attending a swearing in ceremony of new United States citizens yesterday. People of all cultures and shades were represented: Canada, Italy, Congo, Mexico, Iraq, Iran, China, Guatemala, El Salvador, Russia. I am rarely in situations where I am amongst people who are completely happy to be where they are. Not these people.
You’d think they were peasants in some sort of fairy tale where a King were granting their every wish. Or perhaps they thought they had just won the lottery. But not them only, also the family members standing on the edges of the room, smiling, snapping photos everywhere. For about an hour, it seemed these were the most important people on the planet.
How did I find myself at the head of this ceremony unexpectedly? It’s ironic really.
The gentleman conducting the ceremony at the start said
Is there any brave soul out there who will lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance?
After some quiet and awkward moments of people scanning the room for someone to step up, I finally did. I lifted my hand and was told to come forward.
“I’m a high school teacher,” I said, “I do this everyday.”
Did I forget to mention that I had Saraphina, my lovely one year baby girl in my arms? It might have been the first time in history that someone has led the Pledge of Allegiance for new citizens while holding a not so happy one-year old. She wasn’t that bad really. And unlike many students in my high school classes, absolutely none of these new citizens sighed out of frustration that they were being bothered to recite the pledge. They did it gladly.
As these forty-nine new citizens finished the ceremony, the smiles of their faces spoke volumes: joy, legitimacy, finality. For others, not so much. As I walked around, hearing snippets of conversation, it was obviously for some, just another day.
I have to go back to work now. I took my lunch early.
Bye, I have to get to class now.
Do you have paper and a pen on you? We need to make a grocery list.
God bless America.