On October 1st, 2008, in Kansas City, MO., I was sworn in as naturalized citizen of the United States. I was born in the Netherlands. My parents immigrated to this country when I was still quite young, but they decided to wait on becoming citizens until after my brother and I were 18. They wanted to give us the choice on whether or not we wanted to become citizens ourselves.
I love my home country and have made regular visits back. I love the culture, the language, and accepting open disposition of the people of Holland. Most of my extended family still lives there, and I wondered if there might be a time where I might return. But, after my kids were born and raised here (and my wife made it clear that she wasn’t moving across the ocean away from the children), I started exploring citizenship.
It was actually a fairly involved process, including a course on American government culminating with a written test and an interview with immigration officer. It took about a year to fulfill all the requirements. The final step was a naturalization service in a US District Court. The swearing in ceremony took place with about 30 other candidates. It was both a sobering and celebratory experience. Each of us had to swear off our allegiance to our mother land and dedicate ourselves to our new home country; specifically, to be law-abiding citizens and if necessary, defend our new home against any and all adversaries. I swallowed hard when I said those words. I think we all did. Some of us even shed a few tears.
But, when all was said and done, I found myself reflecting on the blessing of having spent my entire adult life in the States. There were so many thoughts and images that flooded my mind – the freedoms I have enjoyed, the education I received, the places I’ve lived, the experiences I’ve had, the beautiful places I visited, the people I’ve met and the family I raised. One blessing after another!
I know not everyone has the same experience in this country and there are still things that need to be changed for the better. But now, almost 14 years after having made the decision of citizenship, I couldn’t be prouder of that choice. I have a great deal of gratitude for the country in which I was born. I still wear my orange jersey during the Olympics, and I root for the Dutch in the World Cup. But America is my home, and I could not be more thankful that there is a place on the earth like the United States of America.
Happy July 4th!