Putting America First: What It Means to Become an American Citizen

By Nayla Rush, August 1, 2016

At a recent naturalization ceremony in the Washington area, 73 immigrants from different nationalities (Indian, South Korean, Vietnamese, Guatemalan, Chinese, Iranian, Salvadoran, etc.) became American citizens. They all had to take the Oath of Allegiance during an official ceremony. Here are the words of the 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.

The judge presiding stressed the importance of this oath, comparing it to marriage vows. He explained how important it was for naturalized citizens to give up their loyalty to their previous country. "Keep your affection, preserve your native culture," he said, "but your allegiance should now go to the United States."

The message could simply be: "Put America first." It is about putting the love of America, its values, its people, and its laws above previous loyalties, or "marriages," to use the judge's metaphor. That is what a number of politicians, activists, and concerned Americans are trying to put forward today.

Becoming an American citizen is not to be reduced to mere opportunity. It should remain an honor.