Saturday, May 16, 2009

Thoughts on Citizenship Duties

Today, in a spare moment, I thought I would see how high this blog rates on Google. So I checked "Born Again Citizen" and found I came up number 10! Not bad I guess.

But while scanning down the list, I found the number three entry was titled "Confessions of a Born-Again Citizen" and came from the March 29, 1998 issue of the Los Angeles Times. The title piqued my curiousity, so I opened it to read. The article was written by a man, Jario Marin, who had just finished the naturalization process and was waiting anxiously for a notice of when his swearing-in ceremony was to be.

In Jario's case, "born again citizen" meant becoming a citizen of a new land. Through the naturalization process he became more aware of his lack of participation in his former country, and the possibilities of participation here in the United States.

    "I used to take my citizenship for granted. Now I take it very seriously. I wonder why I did not vote in my country of birth or why I was not more involved in the political process."

As he progressed thru the classes Jario became aware that,
    "The naturalization process makes us born-again citizens; we look around and see that we can be a mentor or a volunteer in a community organization or be involved in a neighborhood watch program. That is what makes an American a good citizen and it is curious to see myself this patriotic."

He continued,
    "The greatest of the privileges we earn as new citizens is the right to vote and the confidence that our opinions can make a difference."

It then occurred to me that many natural-born Americans either never have had, or have forgotten the dutes that their citizenship conveys upon them. Just look at the area of voting. Statistics show that usually less than half of our citizens who are eligible to vote, actually vote. According to the United States Elections Project, since 1972 we have never had a Presidential election where more than 60% of those eligible to vote actually voted.

What causes that? Is it a lack of, in Jario's words, "....the confidence that our opinions can make a difference"?

I could go on with the similar questions concerning volunteerism, political activism, charity, and so forth, but I think you get the point.

I would like to suggest a national day be designated, maybe every two years just before Congressional elections, where American citizens can have their own re-affirmation ceremony. The day might be called "National Citizenship Day".

The ceremony should be community-based and have a speaker or two from the community speak briefly about or duties as citizens. Then, as a community, we would all recite aloud a pledge to affirm our duties and recommit ourselves, as American citizens, to our community, state, and nation. To make the gathering even more meaningful, tables could be set up for all sorts of community organizations. At the tables they would showcase their missions and allow people to learn about opportunities to be better citizens and to "sign up" for participation if they chose to do so.

What do you think? Do you have an idea for a better name for the day? Who can write a good pledge?

Just one last thought. Have you ever read the pledge that new citizens take at their swearing-in ceremony? It might surprise you.

1 comment:

  1. Desiree PaquetteMay 16, 2009 at 10:45 AM

    I think your idea is a wonderful one. I like the name, too... National Citizenship Day. So many take their citizenship for granted. Many don't bother to vote and many that do don't know the slightest thing about whom they are voting for. It's sooo sad! Then the rest of us are left to wonder what the @#%! is going on with our country. And thanks, too, for putting in the link for the oath of citizenship. Very interesting!