Be Thankful for What We Have

Several days ago, my wife was sworn in as an U.S. citizen in a ceremony in Chicago. Having dealt with the government bureaucracy throughout, we did not have high hopes for the occasion, but were pleasantly surprised by the ceremony that took place. Along with the 140 other new citizens and several hundred friends and families, we sang the national anthem and recited the pledge of allegiance. We watched a video about immigrants and also a music video with the song, “Proud to be an American”. The new citizens recited the oath to their new country.

For me, the highpoint of the ceremony was when the new citizens came forward to receive their certificate of naturalization. Of course, this is the digital age, so there were several new citizens taking selfie-videos of themselves receiving the certificate.

The person that impressed me the most was a gentleman in his 60’s, who really looked the part of an immigrant; neatly dressed but somewhat grizzled, with the rough hands of one who had done manual labor for many years. When he received his certificate, he held it aloft in both hands as high as he could reach to show it to friends and family across the room, and then began jumping up and down in a dance of sheer joy, a wide smile on his face. This was an important moment in this man’s life!

Of course, bureaucracy was on display that day as well. It took longer to check in the 141 prospective citizens than the actual ceremony. The Bulldog noted several quick changes in process that could have cut the time in less than half, but I kept my peace that day.

Afterwards, my wife told me about a comment that one of the bureaucrats made during the checking in lineup. Seeing the long line waiting to check in, she asked how many were there. When she was told that it was 141, she said, “Wow, why so many? Are they giving something away for free? I want some!” My wife had the right thought, but she did not verbalize at the time. I will now, “Ma’am, you’ve already got it, and you don’t even know!”

What the bureaucrat had was the liberty and blessings of being an American citizen. Unfortunately, at least at that moment, she seemed to have forgotten that fact. Many do, including myself from time to time. The freedom to live as I would like, to be an entrepreneur and build a business that supports my family and my community. The freedom to express myself and my ideas. We often take these things for granted, and often it is immigrants who remind about these freedoms.

To quote Churchill, “”Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (From a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947).


One thought on “Be Thankful for What We Have

  1. A gift, an honor that so many of us do take for granted – like the air we breathe…
    When you described the ‘gentleman in his 60’s’, I heard the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and felt this man dancing in the Happy music video.

    Many years ago I visited a friend living in Switzerland (her husband a Swiss National). I was shocked to learn that in that democratic nation, starting a business or even buying one was a locked-in, sewn-shut, no-newbies-allowed (even for citizens) closed club. My friend was an experienced, successful, certified Property Manager in the US. But in Switzerland all she was legally ‘allowed’ to do for livelihood was be a cleaning lady, maybe a waitress.
    She and her husband have since settled in Colorado (to raise their daughter – even Dad felt the US was where their daughter would have the most opportunities). And my friend has her own highly successful Property Mgmt business – with her husband as partner.

    Another, more recent experience was visiting my husband’s cousin in Germany. Same deal there for entrepreneurs: mega licensing hoops to jump through, mega fees, many levels of ‘approvals’ to wait for before launching a business. When I described to him how simple it is to start a business in the US, and how you have many choices on how cost-effective it can be – he had a hard time believing I knew what I was talking about!

    So thanks again – for reminding us to be Thankful for what we have.
    Kristy Alagna

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