Last week I had the opportunity to view the swearing in ceremony for a friend and business colleague in Springfield, Illinois to become an American citizen. Although he attended college in America and ultimately married an American, he is originally from Denmark. Unlike many others who come to America over the generations, this man grew up in an educated and affluent home.
The ceremony included about 60 people from nations all around the earth and it was touching to see adults showing genuine emotion. After the official ceremony, there was a reception for the family and friends of my colleague at his home nearby. The blending of Danish and Midwestern American foods and beers made for an enjoyable evening. At a certain point, my friend rose to thank the party and spoke with passion about his desires growing up, being inspired by America to defeat the enemies of freedom, led by the former Soviet Union. Several times during his modest but passionate remarks, he choked up a bit that this day had finally come and he is so appreciative at how much this nation has done for him.
Immediately following his remarks, his father addressed the group. He recounted how his young son played with toy soldiers with the “good guy” Americans always defeating the “bad guy” communists. He mentioned how his son as a young teen let it be known that he was hoping to attend college in the United States and read countless books about American history in the 18th and 19th centuries. He then discussed how he and his wife respond to those family and friends in Denmark who ask them do they miss their son and wish he were not so far away. He said he has been preparing for this for years but always wanted his children to pursue their dreams and his son has long dreamed of becoming an American. All through this time I reflected on how amazing the United States of America is as a beacon of hope and inspiration to so many people, rich and poor, simple and sophisticated worldwide.
I then thought about the current President and First Lady and the worldview that they came up with in our Ivy League University system. The First Lady’s comments about never being proud of her country until her husband was elected to the US Senate rankled me a great deal then and still do now. However, seeing the little example of my friend’s becoming an American served to wash away some of my anger and cynicism. The President may wish to turn this nation into a France or Germany but I believe the majority of the American people wish that it continue to evolve as the greatest outpost of freedom and prosperity the world has ever known.
Perhaps the President and First Lady should attend one of these little ceremonies with little fanfare that are the strongest illustration of what makes American exceptionalism true and real.