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On Saturday, Aug. 24, I proudly became an American.

I finally joined the United States as a new citizen after living and thriving in this great country for nearly 15 years.

I am forever changed.

Romina Boccia

Boccia

I took swearing the Oath of Allegiance very seriously, especially the part about taking the oath freely “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

It’s as serious a commitment as marrying someone — “until death do us part.”

The severity of this commitment partially explains my waiting so long to apply for citizenship. I needed to be able to swear it, wholeheartedly, and mean it. And that’s what I did on that Saturday, in the suburbs of Baltimore.

How fitting that I had the honor and privilege to take this oath mere miles from where a huge American flag flew over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

It was this very flag, with its “broad stripes and bright stars,” that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that eventually became our national anthem.

I struggled to sing along with the 69 soon-to-be fellow Americans gathered with me in this room, as tears of joy, relief and pride ran down my face and the huge lump in my throat stifled the words from coming out of my mouth.

We came from 41 different countries, running the gamut from Argentina to Zimbabwe. For every country that was called, the person whose heritage it represented would stand.

We would acknowledge each other, and clap in celebration of our national origin, before joining as one nation. America is a place where our origins matter less than our destinations.

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I was the only one from Germany that day, joining a long lineage of German-Americans who have flocked to America’s shores in search of opportunity and freedom.

The woman to my left, originally from Ghana, and wearing all white for the occasion, whispered in my ear: “When we leave here today, we are free!”

She understood what the American experiment is all about: a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, with the core mandate to secure each and every individual’s God-given, inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

America is built on a powerful idea that the government exists to serve the people. In many other countries, it’s the other way around, but here the individual reigns supreme.

Unlike Europe, which has a long history of its people being the subjects of some king or feudal lord, America was founded as a democratic republic made up of citizens governing themselves.

Our American freedom, however, comes with responsibility. For this experiment of self-governance to work, it requires a vigilant and engaged citizenry that is educated to make wise choices for themselves and their country through participation in the democratic process, including holding those who represent us accountable.

We are in this together. E pluribus unum — “out of many, one.”

Anybody, regardless of race, color or creed, can become American. This is an important aspect of what makes America truly exceptional. Our country was founded on the diversity of many tribes, countries and cultures. It’s been shaped and enriched by immigrants from all over the world.

As President Gerald R. Ford remarked at a Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello, Virginia, in 1976, on the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence: “To be an American is to subscribe to those principles which the Declaration of Independence proclaims and the Constitution protects — the political values of self-government, liberty and justice, equal rights, and equal opportunity. These beliefs are the secrets of America’s unity from diversity — in my judgment the most magnificent achievement of our 200 years as a nation.”

Since taking the oath, I have been welcomed with open arms and smiling faces, and showered with love and appreciation, like I never imagined.

By choosing America, I have inherited not only a country, but a family, and a home. I am so very grateful.

The American experiment is the greatest experiment on this Earth. I could not be more proud to take part in it.

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Romina Boccia is director of the Grover M. Hermann Center for Federal Budget in the Institute for Economic Freedom at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).

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(11) comments

PhysicsIsFun

I notice that the author of this column Romina Boccia is director of the Grover M. Hermann Center for Federal Budget in the Institute for Economic Freedom at The Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation is a right wing think tank that gets much of its financial support from libertarian billionaires such as the Kochs. I wonder if there is any hidden agenda in this column. I am glad she supports American ideals. It is too bad she works for an organization which is about enriching those who are already rich at the expense of the health, welfare, and prosperity of other less well off citizens.

PhysicsIsFun

Upon further study Rominia Boccia is also a graduate of George Mason University. This public university has been co opted by millions of dollars in donations from The Kochs and other hard right wing Libertarians. She has an agenda and it is not about democracy. It is about benefiting her benefactors and their anti-government, anti-tax, pro-pollution supporters.

johnnybragatti

Welcome Romie !!!! and don"t feel like you have to let the Orange Carcass, or his lock-stepped Trump - Humpers get in your way of being anything less, than an absolute true success. They will try and try again, to make it miserable for you, but you will do fantastic in spite. Do not let ANYone tell you to go back !!!(to where you came from".

By the way : Congrats !!!

Cassandra2

She never mentions if she picked up her free gun when she got her paperwork.

DMoney

Yeah, those dirty legal immigrants who are prepared to make their own way and contribute--how dare they express pride about following the rules to become equal citizens here. Nasty creatures. Stay in your own countries. They are apparently sooo much better. Thats why 41 people from across the globe chose to become citizens.

DMoney

Welcome and we're extremely glad you (and the 41 others) are here. The sentiments about why this country is exceptional are spot on, and inspiring.

oldhomey

Read this essay a little more carefully, D. There is a sentence in it that you show almost daily that you do not accept as a supreme precept of the philosophy behind our government: "America is built on a powerful idea that the government exists to serve the people. In many other countries, it’s the other way around, but here the individual reigns supreme."



You could stand to be a little more accepting of immigrants in general, too.



Other than that, I join you in your high praise of Ms. Boccia's stated sentiments and in welcoming her into the fold of citizenship of our great nation.

DMoney

Legal immigrants, with patriotism and zeal and respect for who we are and what we stand for are a national treasure. They are almost guaranteed to be contributors to our country economically, culturally. The people that cheat this system are largely frauds and freeloaders who want what we have and are against earning it and respecting it. Don't try and flip this beautiful column to be pro-illegal immigrant. This is the standard we should aim for. Good, law abiding, dedicated people who will help continue to make our country great.

Cassandra2

Are you referring to those workers who put food on your table and contribute billions of dollars to the Social Security system that they'll never benefit from?

PhysicsIsFun

The only flaw in your position is that those less fortunate and more desperate potential immigrants from south of our border have such incredible barriers to legal immigration as to make their attempts nearly impossible. When you make it so incredibly difficult then they break the law. How about some reasonable and humane regulations? No one wants open borders, but many want policies that do not just favor certain ethnicities and certain economic classes.

oldhomey

Gosh, D, you make me want to leap to attention and sing God Bless America with your fulsome patriotic sentiment. The problem is, for you it is cheap and meaningless sentiment because it denies the spirit upon which our nation was founded.



Lawrence Bacow, the president of Harvard University, is the son of a woman who arrived here at age 19 after WWII, the only member of her family to survive Auschwitz. We were turning away European Jews trying to escape Europe before the war. Bacow's father was lucky and got here as a child before the war, but also to escape pogroms in Europe. We have similarly desperate people on our borders today.



Are you trying to say that they and their children, unlike Bacow's family, have nothing to offer to a better future for our country? How American of you.

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