Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Constitution and Citizenship Day!

Today marks a very important day in our nation’s history. On September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States was signed by the members of the Constitutional Convention. After being signed by members of the convention (all but three signed), the Constitution was then sent to the states for ratification. This process was by no means easy, as the document had as many detractors as fans. However, the Constitution received the necessary approval of the states and became law, replacing the Articles of Confederation. If at this point you are thinking “this is boring,” or “what does this nerd fodder have to do with my life?,” then this may be an appropriate time to talk about the other name for September 17th, Citizenship Day. Citizenship Day honors all of us who are lucky enough to be American citizens. As citizens, we should be familiar with the Constitution and the struggles that brought it into being if for no other reason that it is the living breathing roadmap of our citizenship. Besides laying out the basic framework of our government, it also guarantees basic freedoms and legal protections in the form of the Bill of Rights.
Citizenship Day celebrations sometimes include nationalization ceremonies to welcome new citizens to the country. Today I had the privilege of attending a naturalization ceremony that welcomed twenty-four new citizens into the fold. The ceremony was unexpectedly moving, and reminded me of the many responsibilities of citizenship that I often forget. Being an American citizen is hard work. When I listened to the oath being administered to the new citizens, I was reminded of how much is expected of American citizens. For example, immigrants are asked to swear to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. This in it of itself is a pretty heady task when we consider that defending the Constitution can mean fighting foreign enemies who challenge the freedoms laid out in this quintessentially American document. More challenging perhaps is the pledge to defend the Constitution against domestic enemies. Sometimes we defend our freedoms by acknowledging their exercise in the service of causes we may not understand. For example, we may not agree with flag burning or private gun ownership, but we would have a hard time denying the existence of the rights that allow it within our government. We may debate the merits of these rights, but the debate itself serves only to further acknowledge the greatness of a system that allows debate instead of attempting to squash dissent.

Do you have what it takes to pass a citizenship test? Click
here to take a test with sample questions.

Here are some other sample questions often asked on INS citizenship exams.

Interested in becoming a United States citizen?
Click here for more information.

[Image via ssecamoreperfectunion]

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