american society, OPW, politics, USA

OPW: Fareed Zakaria on July 4th and Citizenship

Today’s Other People’s Words is a thought about the past week from Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International. Here’s what he had to say about the Fourth of July and becoming an American citizen on his PBS show, Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria.

For most Americans, Independence Day makes them think of fireworks, Old Glory, and traffic. For me, this week reminds me of the day, several years ago, when I became an American citizen. I was sworn in a few weeks before July 4, 2001 at a ceremony that would have sent chills down Pat Buchanan’s spine. Seated in a noisy Brooklyn auditorium, more than 2000 new citizens–almost all black and brown faces with the odd British banker looking around nervously–listened to introductory speeches in English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, and Hindi. A young woman of Indian origin gave us all an earnest lecture imploring us to do our civic duty and always vote.

After the ceremony, a short sweet speech on patriotism, the oath of allegiance, and it was all over. We emptied unto the street where a small welcoming fair had been setup. You could eat pizza, sign up to join the New York Police Department, and get your picture taken with a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush. In some cities, the Daughters of the American Revolution host tea parties for new immigrants, but not in Flatbush, Brooklynn.

The atmosphere in the country was then open, confident, and welcoming of the world. Today, too many of us have become fearful, insecure and suspicious of the outside world. It’s strange, it was only six years ago, but it feels like a different age.

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