Thursday, January 11, 2018

Gettin' Civic Wit' It

There is a tendency among certain people I know to take an expansive view of the current state of
American affairs and lean towards despair. As we're met with an unceasing barrage of variously negative, odd, unthinkable, and enraging revelations from our national leadership, it's easy to lose focus on the things that matter in our homes and in our communities, and indeed, to us as individuals.

I've had an interesting couple of days, as it relates to the topic at hand. A whirlwind first-hand tour through American Civics, one might say. I wouldn't say that it made me feel any better about our proximate circumstances on a national level, but it did remind me of the relative nature of things, and of the idea that change and progress happens slowly and painstakingly, right up until it happens in a rush.

As most of our readers know, I'm a member of the Board of Directors of my local soccer club. The "machine", as Dave has dubbed it, the Club is the largest single-sport youth organization in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 12,000 kids participate in one or more of our programs each year. As a result of that scale, we're on the radar of our county's Board of Supervisors and of organizations seeking their support.

Last night, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors met to consider a proposal to lease a parcel of public land to D.C. United for the purpose of building a 5,000-seat stadium for use by the MLS club's new United Soccer League (USL) franchise, as well as office space and four full-size training fields. Because our county desperately needs new field space for youth and adult recreation, and because the D.C. United brand is a good thing for soccer in our area, our Club supports the proposal.

And so I found myself speaking to the Board of Supervisors during the public comment portion of the proceedings. If you'd like to see my public political debut, skip ahead to the 2:14:35ish mark in the video below.

Following that widely viewed and acclaimed performance, I spent this morning at an event of unquestionably greater significance. I watched from the audience as 724 people from 99 different countries took the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.

A woman that works for me is a Turkish national. She's been in this country since college, some 16 years. Roughly two years ago, she started the naturalization process, which culminated this morning.

Though the character of our national leadership, and public perspectives on a wide range of issues dramatically changed during the course of her journey to become a U.S. citizen, her enthusiasm for citizenship never waned. And so I was thrilled to be able to witness her final step towards being an American.

The event was held at the George Mason University Center for the Arts, in a large auditorium. The crowd in the audience and in the section of candidates was the meltiest pot you could imagine. People from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, from England to Iraq, from Laos to Pakistan eager to become Americans, and the atmosphere was a mix of apprehension and excitement, festive with just a hint of urgency.

Check out the length of this line, and the diversity of the people in it:

A very enthusiastic official from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) made a brief speech and explained the process, and then administered the oath. My colleague texted me immediately afterward, "I am a US citizen!!!", and I couldn't have been more happy for her.

The new citizens were shown a video featuring former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, herself a naturalized citizen. I won't belabor the fact that the Secretary's strongly pro-immigrant message felt slightly awkward juxtaposed against current Administration policy, nor will I make too much fun of the way the President told his new constituents that they were 'very, very special' in recorded remarks that followed Secretary Albright's. The jubilant solemnity (if such a thing is possible) of the event mitigates against excessive politically motivated snark.

Though my colleague did text shortly after taking the oath to say, "I submitted my voter registration. Now where do I register as a Democrat?"

I was pleased to be able to support my friend and colleague from the beginning, but I found myself moved by the excitement, emotion, and determination of our newest fellow citizens. As people streamed out from the event to greet their friends and family, a scene that was repeated dozens of times, their pride in being Americans was obvious. And for someone whose pride in being an American has been tested of late, that was a significant thing.

We live in a flawed and scuffling nation. And yet 724 people this morning in Fairfax, VA completed a journey that required years of invasive scrutiny, uncertainty, and bureaucratic slog, and a repudiation of the nation of their origin in order to count themselves a full part of it. Still thousands more across the nation are actively seeking to follow the same path.

We're a better nation for their contributions, and they deserve our best efforts to help this country live up to its potential.



rob said...

so this is timely, given the president's* comments about restricting immigration from 'shithole' countries. during the ceremony, as the names of each country were read off, the loudest ovation by far came when el salvador was called.

Whitney said...

Rob is crushing it lately.

Whitney said...

Tribe crapping the bed against JMU

TR said...

Dropping a dookie against the Dukes?

Shlara said...

I did my masters thesis/capstone on the naturalization process--and since my degree is in journalism the project was a magazine feature and NPR-style radio story, I've been to MANY naturalization ceremonies and they all are incredibly moving--even if you don't know ANYONE participating. In fact, the reason I picked this topic for my thesis is because I was at a work conference about 10 years ago and, as part of the conference, they hosted a naturalization ceremony, and the oath was administered by Justice Scalia. It was really powerful--I was surprised at how emotional I got just observing. And after spending 4 months digging into the process and getting to know a lot of people who are going through it, I will say this: 1) natural born US citizens have no idea how lucky we are to have the fortune to be born here; 2) not that many natural born citizens could pass the test NOR could they handle completing the paperwork or navigating the process to become a citizen.

Gheorghies--anytime you're feeling down about what is happening in the news every day, do yourself a favor and go sit in on a naturalization ceremony, It will make your day.

Danimal said...

Rob - slow down big guy!

Good stuff...Hey, I'm watching the Tonya Harding story!

rob said...

that's the kind of game i've been worried about the tribe having. and they won it. team of destiny.

Marls said...

That game was a birthday miracle for Shlara.

Whitney said...

I watched Rob's moment at the podium. Well acquitted, sir.

Rob accompanies most of his sentences with fairly demonstrative hand gestures. I remembered him doing this during the Best Man toast he delivered.

If (like some folks who were not born in this country) you don't speak English, you could be convinced by Rob's hand gestures during this speech that he was saying this:


Watch it and you'll see. And you'll also learn something about soccer and Rob.

rob said...

i am quite laughing bigly

zman said...

It's as if the president read this post and decided to crap upon it.

Whitney said...


rob said...

a buddy of mine just texted me to tell me that my comments at the hearing were picked up on wmal radio, where i was introduced by name. less impactful than television, 'cause you can't see my hands on radio. but i do have a sexy voice.

Marls said...

From now on I’m just going to blame Obama for not doing things.

Sorry Sweetheart, I’m. It cutting the grass because I’m protesting the Obama administration’s soft stance on ganja.

Sorry boss, I’m not coming to work today in protest of the Obama administration’s support of financial industry regulation.

I’m sure Obama did something that is keeping Whit from finishing day 12.

rob said...

whit's looking for the long-form birth certificate

Whitney said...

How can I type when I know that Obama was golfing three days in a row during Katrina?

Dave said...

nice job rob! although you could have shaved . . .

you used "cachet" twice in context. i'm not sure if i've ever said that word out loud, and certainly not in front of that many people.

is there a trumpian list of the "shithole" countries?

Mark said...

About to get my back tattooed for the next 4-5 hours (or however long I last). Pray for me.

Mark said...

This was a great post by Rob. And a nice reminder that despite the many, many flaws of our country it's still a great country that we're all blessed to have been born in.

zman said...

Dave prefers to sashay.

zman said...

Mark are you getting a Kendrick Perkins portrai?

Dave said...

i would love to get some big ink on my back, but unfortunately, my rapidly spreading back hair limits my back tattoo options to either a Sasquatch or the members of zz top.