Newcomers to the shining city

There were more than a few teary eyes among the 53 new citizens, their families and friends, and assorted dignitaries at last Friday’s Naturalization Ceremony in Courtroom One of the Historic Chester County Courthouse.

Sponsored by the County Bar Association, the ceremony is held several times a year and is open to the public. 

Chester countians owe it to themselves to attend the event at least once.  As a member of the Bar Association’s Naturalization Committee, I promise they will be glad they did. But bring a handkerchief.         

There is much talk nowadays about “diversity, “but these 53 newcomers embody the word.  They migrated from over two dozen countries as dissimilar as Vietnam, Bulgaria, Kenya, India, China, Turkey, Haiti, and Argentina.     

One of the wonderful things about America is that in time the influence of the cultures, customs, and traditions these newcomers import with them will enrich, nurture, and season the melting pot that is America. 

Ideally, to paraphrase a speaker, they will “embrace the goodness this country offers and return that goodness in kind.”

At first glance these newest Americans from the four corners of the earth have little in common, but upon closer examination they do. Like the teeming masses immortalized by Emma Lazarus’ sonnet on the Statue of Liberty, they all “yearn to breathe free.”

Thus, with right hand raised they recite the Oath of Citizenship and “ declare, on Oath,” to “renounce and abjure All allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, Potentate, state or sovereignty” and “ support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; ”  

E pluribus Unum, one from many, an alchemy unique to America.

In his farewell address to the nation on January 11, 1989, Ronald Reagan spoke about his vision of America as “the shining city upon a hill,” a phrase coined by John Winthrop, an early pilgrim to describe the America he imagined. Winthrop and his fellow pilgrims were looking for a home that would be free.

Reagan spoke of the “shining city” all his political life.

In his mind, America was a “tall, proud city, built on rocks, stronger than oceans, windswept, God blessed, teeming with people of all kinds, living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity.  And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Two hundred years later, on January 11, 1989, she was “still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness toward home.”

And on Friday, November 1, 2019, in Courtroom One of Chester County’s Historic Courthouse, all there were assured that America is still a beacon, still “the Shining City Upon a Hill.”    

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