Lorraine Eden, March 5th, 2008
On Valentine’s Day 2008, Lorraine Eden, professor of management at Mays, became a U.S. citizen. Here are excerpts from the speech she gave at the naturalization ceremony.
The dictionary defines “citizen” as “a person owing allegiance to a state where sovereign power is retained by the people and where the person shares in the political rights of the people.” ((http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/citizen)) A citizen is a member of a community. Citizens “belong to”, “are part of”, “are accepted as”; in other words, citizenship is all about “belonging”. Citizens are insiders.
Mays professor Lorraine Eden became a U.S. citizen on Valentine’s Day 2008.
The Department of Homeland Security’s most recent Yearbook of Immigration Statistics states that 702,589 people became naturalized citizens of the United States in 2006 (the newest available data). Almost three-quarters of a million people chose membership in the U.S. communityâ€”to become insiders.
They came fromâ€”I counted!â€”192 different countries. In other words, there were new naturalized U.S. citizens in 2006 from every country that is a country in the world.
I am from Canada. As you might expect, given its small population, there weren’t a lot of Canadians in the group — about 1% of the total. The top five sending countries were: Mexico (12% of the total), India, Philippines, China and Vietnam.
Where do these new U.S. citizens live? In every state in the union. The top five receiving states were: California, New York, Florida, New Jersey, and Texas (5% of the total).
Immigrants are applying for U.S. citizenship in record numbers. Almost 1.5 million legal immigrants applied for U.S. citizenship in fiscal year 2007. More than one million applications are still pending. ((Houston Chronicle, Jan 28, 2008. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/politics/5500956.html))
While the naturalization ceremonies in Bryan/College Station are small, this is not the case in larger cities. In Los Angeles, naturalization ceremonies are running almost monthly. On February 21st two ceremonies are scheduledâ€”for 6,000 people each! Website instructions warn new citizens and their families to set up specific locations for meeting after the ceremony because of the huge crowds. ((“Due to the large size of the naturalization facilities and the fact that applicants and guests are separated during processing, it is a good idea to have the applicant and guest designate a specific location to meet after the ceremony. Too often, individuals cannot locate each other at the conclusion of the ceremony.” See http://www.cacd.uscourts.gov/CACD/GenInfo.nsf/5f050bfbacb399fd882567c8005ad845/4e345f626837d38788256815005aa932?OpenDocument )) In Houston, almost 4,000 immigrants were naturalized in January 2008 and over a dozen more ceremonies are scheduled through September. A Houston radio station compared the mass ceremonies to basketball games: “a full parking lot, 5,000 people in the seats, ushers, security guards and even music playing over the public address system”. ((http://www.kuhf.org/site/News2?JServSessionIdr004=okrdrsg6m2.app1b&page=NewsArticle&id=21086&security=2665&news_iv_ctrl=1043))
What is clear from these statistics is the overwhelming desire of people from all walks of life, across all countries, races and ethnicities, to migrate to the United States and become naturalized U.S. citizens. Some individuals came here fleeing from persecution in their home countries; others simply looking for a better life. Some (like me) came here through marriage to a U.S. native-born citizen.
“Physically, mentally and emotionally, we have moved to the United States and put down roots. Our allegiance is here.”
Let me tell you a bit about my own personal journey to becoming a U.S. citizen.
I am a “border child.” My father was Canadian and my mother was British. They met in London during the Blitz and married after the war. Both of my parents spent part of their childhoods in orphanages so I know little about my own roots. I am the eldest of three children. I was born and raised in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, a small town of 3,000 people on the Canadian side of the U.S.-Canada border. Many of my childhood memories involve crossing the bridge to visit Calais, Maine on the U.S. side of the border. ((http://www.businessintheeyeofthestorm.com/articles/Episode6/UHY_BES_october.pdf#page=10))
The United States was ever present when I was growing up. My earliest TV memories are of Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans, The Mickey Mouse Club, Spanky and Our Gang, The Lone Ranger, Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, The Ed Sullivan Showâ€”all American shows. I loved Walt Disney movies and Warner Brothers cartoons, and devoured Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins and Zane Gray books. As a teenager, I listened to New York radio stations (WPTR, WABC, Wolfman Jack), spent my allowance on teen movie magazines, and listened to Top 40 Hits (the Beach Boys) while dreaming about what it would be like to live in California.
Many years later, I was a professor of international affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa when I met a professor of political science at Ohio State. We fell in love, commuted for a couple of years, and then went on the market together. Texas A&M hired both of us and that changed everything. My husband, Chuck Hermann, became the founding director of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service; I became a faculty member in the management department at Mays. We arrived here in July 1995 to a Texas summerâ€”over 100 degrees outsideâ€”and a house with the air conditioning off.
More than 700,000 people became naturalized citizens of the United States in 2006 alone.
Over the past 13 years, Bryan/College Station has become our home and Texas A&M our university. We have many friends here and have put down roots. We have a good life. Our three children are now all married, and we have our first grandson. The Bush School is a thriving institution with dozens of faculty and hundreds of graduates. My department is ranked one of the best in the country.
In June 2007, I applied for U.S. citizenship, with the help of Esther Del Toro, my immigration lawyer. My reasons for moving from a “permanent resident” (or, as my husband calls me, his “resident alien”) to a naturalized U.S. citizen were simple. There were two primary ones:
First, I had become “Americanized”, but was not an American. I have been physically inside the United States since 1995, but still internally saw myself as an outsider. I couldn’t vote. I couldn’t serve in jury duty. I couldn’t run for elective office. It was time to assume these citizenship responsibilities. It was time to show my allegiance to the community by pulling my own weight as a citizen. It was time to become an insider. It felt right.
Second, November 2007 was the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Bush School and the Bush Library/Museum. Applying for U.S. citizenship in June 2007 was my own personal way of marking this overwhelmingly important event in Chuck’s and my life. The 10th anniversary was time. It felt right.
Canada will always be the country where I was born and raised. Canada gave me a wonderful education. My side of the family all live in Canada. Canada is a beautiful country. However, I do not see myself ever returning to Canada to live. Physically, mentally and emotionally, I have moved to the United States and put down roots. My allegiance is here. It is time for me to assume my new identity as an American citizen, to become an insider.