I had the great privilege this morning to deliver the keynote speech to a group of nearly 1,000 people from more than 100 countries in the moments after they took their oath of U.S. citizenship. The ceremony was held at the grant old Paramount Theater in Oakland.
It was a very moving experience and I started my remarks more than a little teary-eyed. After all, I had never chosen to be a U.S. citizen. My ancestors did that for me when they boarded the Mayflower in 1620.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, naturalizes about 2,000 people a month in the Bay Area and roughly 1 million a year nationwide.
As a political writer, I urged our newest citizens to register to vote, help a candidate get elected or even better yet, run for office. Governing this great country takes hard work and the more of its citizens that shoulder the load, the easier the lift.
What I didn’t know when I wrote the speech was that political parties routinely station themselves with registration forms outside the venues where the new citizens take their oath! It wasn’t a conspiracy, I swear. But I hope they at least took home the forms and will spend the necessary time researching the party that best fits their politics even if it’s “decline to state.”
As a sidenote, I did gain a little glimpse into the nitty-gritty details required of federal agencies when a new administration takes office.
As we know, President Barack Obama has been very busy in his first 100 days of office, too busy in fact, to film that standard welcome video for new citizens. So, our newest citizens heard from former President George W. Bush instead. But the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office did finally receive photos of the new president to hang in their lobbies. Details, details.