Do you promise allegiance?

This week one of my Brazilian mission companions became a U.S. citizen. I attended his naturalization ceremony in downtown SLC, and though it wasn’t fancy, I found it to be a very patriotic event. Here’s how it went down:

“All rise”. Judge David Sam entered. United States District Court for the District of Utah was now in session. Girl scouts brought out the colors, led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, and then we sang the National Anthem.

Then 189 persons from 54 countries rose and repeated the following oath:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.” (via. see also.)

These 189 foreign-born persons were now American citizens, “just as American,” in Judge Sam’s words, “as any direct descendent of the Founding Fathers.”

Judge Sam let several people in the group stand and offer a few remarks about becoming U.S. citizens. A man from Mexico stood and said how thankful he was for economic opportunities, freedom of religion, and schools. A Muslim woman from Bosnia said she was thankful to be able to practice her religion and wear a veil (hijab). A man from Peru said “we can do anything here” and “we must love this country.” An El Salvadorian said “this is a promised land for everybody.” And a Venezuelan said “I’ve been American at heart for a long time.”

Judge Sam said his own parents were immigrants from Romania, saving and sacrificing to come to America. They changed their last name to Sam (like Uncle Sam) on arrival. Judge Sam then told the new citizens:

I am your servant. It is my duty and responsibility to see that you are treated equally. One of my favorite comments was from a Somalian man a few years ago. He said “If I were to become a German citizen, I’d still never be German. If I were to become a Russian citizen, I’d still never be Russian. But today I am an American.”

Freedom isn’t free. It will slip away if we don’t protect it. It needs to be protected by all who enjoy it. Let freedom ring in your life. Understand the blessings of freedom. Be law-abiding, God-fearing citizens. God bless the U.S. and all of you.

New citizens renounce allegiance to their country of birth and promise to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. If you were born in the United States, you don’t take the formal oath. But do you promise the same?

8 thoughts on “Do you promise allegiance?”

  1. Aaron: I was actually surprised by the renouncement in the US oath as well. However, the judge administering the ceremonies didn’t seem to emphasize that point; he emphasized the heritage of all the new citizens, which I thought was cool.

    Daniel: I agree that’s a great song. My favorite verse is the 3rd.

  2. The other day we sang America the Beautiful in preparation for independence day. I was struck by the verses of the song. How beautiful they are. How they acknowledge the hand of God in the greatness of America.

    As I thought on the words and their meaning… I thought how each verse could be used to teach our children the importance of providence in our lives. How, by the simple act of recognition, our life can have much more meaning than without.

    What a pity it is for those who deny that which makes us the greatest nation (freest) in the history of the world.

    “Freedom isn’t free” – reading the words to America The Beautiful it is as beautiful as becoming a citizen and the oath that goes along with it.

  3. As a UK citizen, I find US patriotism fascinating and as I read that oath, the part that stuck out was about renouncing citizenship to other countries. Although it makes perfect sense (to prevent potential conflicts of interest), it’s akin to renouncing your background if you’re born elsewhere.

    Just out of curiosity I tried to find something similar for the UK but there’s no renouncement of one’s past loyalties here. Our oath for new citizens (since 2004) is: “I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.”

  4. Nic: Yes, it was Fugazza (I should have mentioned it.) It’s nice to still be in touch with you and him 7 1/2 years after we all lived together in Campo Belo.
  5. I know that I learned a ton about that in Scouting. Our leaders always made it a point to talk about being an american. I can vividly remember my first flag burning ceremony and how important and spiritual that was for me. I also had a grandpa and an uncle in the military and so I had that perspective as well.
    For those of us that have left the states we really understand what it is like in other countries and how good we have it. Even going to other first world nations like Japan has really opened my eyes to the value of what we have.
    Now that I have kids, and as a cubmaster, I try to think of ways as they get older to help them understand how important it is to them.
    This truly is a blessed nation!
  6. I like that quote by the judge of that (ex)Somalian. I also think your question at the end is very important. We need to make that promise, and we need to teach our children that it is important that each of them be willing to make that promise.

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