America, The Indispensable Nation
(July Column: Newsmax Magazine)
There are few events in public life that are more powerful and uniquely American than a naturalization ceremony. The process by which an applicant may become a naturalized U.S. citizen isn’t easy. It requires a commitment to hard work along with a demonstrated grasp and adherence to the ideals of our nation. Today, far too many of us take our citizenship for granted. As we gather together this Independence Day, for so many withfriends and loved ones we have not seen for some time, we should also take a moment to appreciate the fact that we live in an amazing, indispensable nation.
History clearly illustrates that the diversity of our nation is among our greatest strengths. The confluence of culture, race, ethnicity, religion and breadth of past experience enjoyed by our people is woven into the fabric of the republic in a manner that can and will never be removed. There’s no other place like it in the world; it’s what makes us truly exceptional.
Therefore, it’s no wonder why so many yearn to make their way to our shores. They do so to achieve a better life, and if they’re lucky, the benefits of the American Dream that can be passed on to future generations.
As a former U.S. Ambassador who served our nation in Eastern Europe in the days following September 11, I saw first-hand the amazing command of American culture and sharp power abroad. Even among former Soviet satellite states, people were inspired by tales of American heroes who went by the names of Reagan, Glenn, Eisenhower and Roosevelt. To this day, they never view us as Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, just Americans that seek a better life for our people, and also a liberal, rules-based order capable of spreading freedom to many of the darkest corners of the world.
The U.S. now stands at a moment of intense competition in the world, not only economically, but also with respect to brainpower and talent. To resuscitate and harness the power and resources we have traditionally drawn from skilled immigrants and even refugees, and continue to expand the influence of our culture, our government must advance policies that are in concert with its values.
Nearly two decades following my service abroad and at the White House, the light of American liberty continues to burn bright. There’s much evidence of this fact, not the least of which are ongoing naturalization trends here in the U.S. Prior to the start of the pandemic, U.S. naturalizations were on the rise, peaking at 843,593 peoples. That figure, according to the Department of Homeland Security, was its highest level since 2007.
To naturalize, an applicant must be at least 18 years of age, establish that he or she has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence at the time of filing the naturalization application, and have resided continuously here for at least 5 years. Additional requirements for applicants, according to the State Department, include “the ability to speak, read, and write the English language; knowledge of U.S. Government and its history; attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and being of good moral character.”
This is rigorous process – and rightfully so. To claim the title of American Citizen, it should be earned. Because with it, comes responsibility that extends to your community, our nation and the free world. Each of us is a dynamic ambassador for the grand American experiment – a keeper of the flame of liberty. May it forever shine bright.
Nancy Brinker is a three-time Ambassador, founder of the Promise Fund of Florida and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.