When they learn that I migrated to the United States, people naturally ask questions out of curiosity. Folks often ask me what the difference is between being a permanent resident and an American citizen. I am proud to be part of America’s rich immigrant story. My parents and I immigrated to the United States back in the early 1970s, in pursuit of the American Dream. For my parents, America represented OPPORTUNITY.
After my interview during the naturalization process, the Homeland Security Agent congratulated me and welcomed me as a new American citizen. It was a powerful, emotional moment. I remember him telling me that with my freshly acquired citizenship I would discover many new freedoms, rights, and responsibilities.
As a permanent resident, I paid taxes, registered with the selective service, had my social security card, a driver license, a job, and owned a house.
One major thing that changed for me is that now I have the right to vote. After all these years, I have a voice. Being eligible to vote is a game changer! Finally, I can be part of our country’s political process. WOOHOO!!!
Did you know nearly 160 million people voted in the 2020 Presidential election?
A record number of people voted in 2020. In addition to being the largest total voter turnout in U.S. history, 2020 marked the first time more than 140 million people voted in an American election.
In 2020, 66.7 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot. According to political analyst and blogger at The Water’s Edge, James M. Lindsay (Council on Foreign Relations), we have to go back to the Election of 1900 to find a higher percentage turnout of eligible voters (73.7 percent). In case you’re wondering, the Election of 1876 holds the record for highest percentage of eligible voter turnout, logging in at 82.6 percent. On average, since 1976, about 50 percent of voting-age Americans vote.
I am excited that in this next election, I will be able to cast my vote.
But voting isn’t the only new right I have gained. In addition to voting and the freedom to enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” I have the freedom to express myself and freedom to worship as I wish. I also have the right to a prompt, fair trail by jury (this is one I hope not to have to exercise). I also have the right to apply for federal employment that before was out of my reach and I have the right to run for elected office, including federal positions. These are just a few of the newly bestowed blessings I have obtained after becoming and American citizen.
Being an American isn’t all about rights. It’s also about responsibilities.
As a NEW American, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and defend the country if the need should arise. As an American, it is part of my responsibility to stay informed on issues affecting my community and participate in that same community. I must respect and obey federal, state, and local laws and respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others. I must continue to pay income and other taxes honestly and on time to federal, state, and local authorities. As an American it is my responsibility to actively participate in the democratic process, including serving on a jury (yes, I am excited about this) when called to do so.
These are just some of the key rights and responsibilities that come with being an American. For democracy to work and for our republic to stand, it is imperative that we each do our part. This is especially true during this critical time in our nation’s history. We need to figure out a way to disagree without dehumanizing one another. We need to recollect how to have a civil discourse intent on solving a problem rather than simply spewing rhetoric. We must find our way back to dissenting and debating legitimately without debasing and dehumanizing one another. Protecting our rights rests on us fulfilling our responsibilities. Our individual freedoms are intertwined with our responsibility to our collective communities. A collection of people from all walks of life—-a melting pot—-is after all what America is all about. Respecting our differences is the key ingredient to our unity as the United States of America.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
November 2, 1883
I am, as you can tell, not only happy to be an American—-but PROUD to be American. No, it is not perfect. Nothing involving people ever is. It’s like the old church saying reminds us: “If you find the perfect church, don’t start attending. Otherwise, you’ll ruin it.”
But, I believe that America provides the greatest opportunity for any human being to fully enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We all desire to have a chance to make it in this world. America, for me and those who came before me, is the standard-bearer for opportunity. I can make it here.
Yes, it took me awhile. But today, I can proudly proclaim “I AM AN AMERICAN”.
Until next time, dear reader. May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.
Go in peace,
The Devotional Guy™