Today, September 17, is Constitution Day, recognizing its signing at the Constitutional Convention on this date 227 years ago. We shouldn’t idolize it as a perfect document, because it wasn’t. And even after 27 amendments I think most people would say it still isn’t perfect.
Benjamin Franklin gave these concluding remarks at the end of a difficult convention: “There are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them.” He said he would accept the Constitution, “because I expect no better and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”
Our Constitution has been through some very challenging times, but it has held up well and has provided a good framework for us to live within and for our nation to prosper.
So I want to express my appreciation for the work of the founders and all those over the years who have worked to uphold it and improve it. We all enjoy the benefit of that work. Let’s continue that work in our own time and by our own efforts.
What is it about your citizenship in your country that you appreciate, or even find precious? I’m sure there are many things. But how often do we take the time to think about that? Most of us have our citizenship because we were born in this country—it’s a birthright. So sometimes we may take our citizenship for granted—because it is.
June 14 is Flag Day, and of course July 4 is Independence Day. So in this time of year we should take some time to think about what our citizenship in our country means to us—the rights, the responsibilities, the blessings.
A great way to help you think about your citizenship in the United States is to hear from people who have made the choice to give up their citizenship in the country of their birth and become citizens of the U.S. It’s a long and challenging process–very important and profound for these people—to renounce their allegiance to the country of their birth and pledge allegiance to a different country.
The process of becoming a U.S. citizen is called naturalization. Our federal courts handle that process, and conduct the ceremony by which these people transfer their allegiance to the United States. If you haven’t ever seen a naturalization ceremony, you should do that sometime.
Here is a very well-done video of several naturalized citizens discussing what it meant to them to become U.S. citizens. It is titled The American Dream in Kansas: In Their Own Words. It was made for the federal district court of Kansas as a project to recognize the 150th year of the court. The first ten minutes of this video is devoted to what these naturalized citizens, originally from countries like South Korea, Russia, Sudan, India, Mexico, Pakistan, England, Ecuador, Switzerland and Canada have to say about their experience. It is moving, inspiring, poignant. It’s a great way to reflect on or generate discussion about what it means for any of us to be an American citizen.
Do yourself a big favor and watch the first ten minutes of this video. Use it as an opportunity for you to consider what your United States citizenship means to you.