Jinshui Zhang, one of my co-workers, became a U.S. citizen last month. He was one of 63 people from 36 countries to become naturalized. He was from the People’s Republic of China.
The event was held in the Federal Building, a former post office right across the street from our office. While I went to the building often in its previous incarnation, I’ve rarely been there recently. One goes through a metal detector not unlike the ones at the airport. The security personnel are not as humorless as the airport workers, and they accepted my work ID, which the airport almost never does.
The ceremony was scheduled for 8:30 a.m., but at that hour, there was a long line of people waiting in line to get their paperwork checked. This process took over a half hour. I was told that they used to have fewer people naturalized at more frequent intervals, but now have more people but less frequently as a result of 9/11/2001 concerns. How this helps security screening, I don’t know.
There was a big sign at the entrance to the building prohibiting cameras, but apparently the ban doesn’t apply to this particular event, so folks were able to run across the street and retrieve their photographic equipment without missing anything.
An officer from Homeland Security was cheerfully goofy in explaining what was going to happen. I got the sense that he had other duties in his job that weren’t nearly so pleasant.
The ceremony itself started at 9:30, with the judge giving his well wishes, etc. He introduced the representatives from the League of Women Voters, who were, by that point, actually out in the hall waiting to give out materials to encourage the new citizens to vote (something native-born citizens could do well to do better at). He also introduced four ladies from the Daughters of the American Revolution (more on them some other time), who gave out flags, pins and other paraphernalia.
A lawyer sang a couple patriotic songs, the latter, God Bless America, with the assembled crowd. He wasn’t bad, for a lawyer.
Then the swearing-in took place. The folks running the show, the judge, the court clerk, and especially the Homeland Security officer, were very effusive in their care of the new Americans.
Everyone in the office knew that Jinshui studied hard to take the written test. I noted to one of my co-workers that I doubted that most native-born Americans could pass it. Try it yourself.