All In

By Bernard Wood
December 30, 2012

I was sworn-in as a US citizen today in Portland, Oregon.

There were 37 of us from 19 countries. Ukraine seemed to be the biggest net contributor to my cohort; there were three of us from the UK taking part in the ceremony. We were dealt with efficiently at the Portland Homeland Security office. You go up to what I hope sincerely will be the last of a long series of ‘windows’ I have visited during this process, you show your letter of invitation and ID, you put your green card into a secure box (as the nice lady in charge told us, “we don’t want them turning up on eBay tomorrow”) and then you are ushered into the room they use for such events.

We were shown a moving video about the history of immigration to the US, we sang (haltingly) the Star-Spangled Banner and then we took the oath as a group. After that another video, a seemingly heartfelt welcome from the President, the Pledge of Allegiance, yet another video to the soundtrack of Lee Greenwood singing ‘God Bless the USA’ (maybe they should rethink that one) and then we were each congratulated by the officiant and handed our ‘Certificate of Naturalization’ (mine is already winging its way to California for my passport) and a US flag. Finally we picked up our copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and copy of the excellent ‘The Citizens Almanac’ (if you don’t have one, I recommend it – you can download it for free at http://publications.usa.gov).

It was a moving ceremony. There were lots of families, some tears, many lumps in many throats (including mine) and lots of smiles, even from me.

Why do it?

  • I belong here now, more than I feel I belong in the UK. It was not difficult for me to swear that, “I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, etc”. I doubt Her Majesty will notice the lack of my fealty.
  • The USA has been good to me and I need to pay some of that back.
  • I wanted to be able to vote.
  • Your, now ‘my’, national anthem is a lot better than ‘God save the Queen’ (the lyrics of which, once you get beyond the first verse, are frankly embarrassing –  click on the link if you don’t believe me).
  • I can apply to join the TSA Pre-check Program.

So all the best for the New Year and ‘God Bless the USA’.