One of the benefits of not running for office: you are eligible to be a speaker at a Naturalization Ceremony. That’s where I found myself almost 10 days ago. I was the guest speaker at the Naturalization Ceremony at the Bob Dole Federal Courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas. What an amazing experience. I was filled with emotions and with the pride of being an American in this wonderful country of opportunity.
I had never attended one of these ceremonies, as I am sure most of you haven’t either. I didn’t realize they are held monthly at our federal courthouse. At the February 25th ceremony that I attended more than 90 new citizens took the oath. They represented over 30 different countries. But they all had one thing in common: a strong belief in the potential and promise of our country. More on that in a minute.
We were in the large ceremonial courtroom at the federal courthouse. Too few residents of our city have had a chance to see this great building. It contains a great display on the immigrant experience in Kansas that I would recommend to anyone. More information can be found here: http://www.ksd.uscourts.gov/americans-by-choice-the-story-of-immigration-citizenship-in-kansas/
The courtroom was packed. An overflow room had to be used to accommodate everyone. These ceremonies are open to the public and I would highly recommend attending one. You will not forget it.
Federal Magistrate Judge Rushfelt presided. Our own District Court Judges Bill Mahoney and Dan Duncan also attended. In fact, our Wyandotte County Bar Association coordinates these ceremonies every other month. They trade off with the Johnson County Bar. Judge Mahoney had invited me to speak. Other groups also assist with the ceremony by providing a reception and ceremonial touches. It makes the event special.
I wish I could tell you that my speech was the most moving part of the ceremony, but that was not it by a long shot. My text was completely and appropriately overshadowed. The best part was when the clerk announces each candidate. The candidate stands, states their country of origin and the clerk indicates their occupation. As I said, at my ceremony over 30 countries were represented: China, Bosnia, Jordan, Mexico, South Africa and the list went on. How appropriate this ceremony was being held in Kansas City, Kansas which has reflected the rich diversity of the world in its residents over time. I felt so much at home.
And then the oath is taken and in that moment we are all citizens of this great country. In that moment the candidates, now citizens, are welcomed to their home; our home.
I was honored to speak and attend the nice reception afterward. And I must say, along with my pride, I realized that we not only had new citizens to celebrate but we were celebrating our country becoming that much stronger and better. There is no doubt that each one of my new fellow citizens possessed the drive, passion and commitment that we find in the best of our fellow countrymen. In many ways, their energy renewed me. I know for many it would do the same.
So maybe you’re like me and when you switch on the TV and watch the news you wonder if our federal government can ever get its act back together and move us forward. I listen to some of the pundits about how we are so divided and we can’t see eye to eye as Americans. I don’t believe it but it gets me depressed at times. Well, I can assure you a Friday afternoon at our federal courthouse witnessing a Naturalization Ceremony is just the prescription to get you back on track. It certainly worked for me.
So here is my plea. If you have kids in school or even if you don’t, let’s suggest they take a field trip to our federal courthouse and witness a Naturalization Ceremony. It might just be the best civics lesson they get all year. And by the way, volunteer to be parent chaperon. You won’t regret it.
More information on Naturalization Ceremonies in Kansas can be found here: