By Jeff Kamm, Operations Manager
One of my favorite obligations as the Operations Manager at The International Center occurs on forty Thursdays throughout the year. This is when we have the opportunity to participate in the naturalization of many a brand new Hoosier. For someone like myself who has the blessing of being an American citizen by birthright alone, this is a great opportunity to reflect on and be thankful for the freedom and privilege we enjoy.
For those unfamiliar, the path to citizenship is not particularly easy. Before the process can begin candidates must have resided legally in the United States for at least five years, be eighteen years of age, agree to remain in the United States from the date of application to the date of naturalization, speak, read and write the English language and be a person of good moral character attached to the principals of The Constitution. After applying, the candidate must then go through a six month process where they complete a number of steps while meeting various requirements and deadlines including interviews, background checks and tests on civics.
The candidates become naturalized U. S. Citizens in a ceremony that takes place in the Birch Bayh Federal Courthouse in downtown Indianapolis. Those of us lucky enough to have avoided Federal court are missing one beautiful building. The structure of 1905 vintage features intricate details and breathtaking mosaics. This provides a lovely and solemn setting for this important day. It is here the new citizens take the oath denouncing any former government and declaring allegiance to The United States. Once sworn in a series of speakers offer their well-wishes. This is where we come in. At each ceremony The International Center presents the eldest new citizen a United States Flag that has been flown over the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. along with a certificate signed by one of our two Senators. Remarks and congratulations are delivered in front of the entire assembly. The ceremony closes with The Pledge of Allegiance led by the youngest new citizen.
Over the years I have gotten to meet some amazing people and hear some fantastic stories. I am always taken aback on the trials and sacrifice these folks have gone through just to be able to say that they are an American. It’s a good reminder about just how fortunate we are. We also get to look back on the same process that many of our ancestors went through during their lives. Over time I have gotten to share this experience with my co-workers and our college interns. Everyone walks away amazed and awed. If you would like the opportunity to witness or even participate in one ceremonies I would gladly welcome you to come along!