As an attorney, I am a member of our local and state bar associations. It's not required but why wouldn't I join? I get discounts on continuing legal education (snore) and we have fun things like law prom and....open bars at the functions! However, as a member, besides taking advantage of free drinks and fancy events, I do participate in something I greatly enjoy. After taking the bar and before I found a job, I volunteered at the humane society (shocking) and a refugee relocation agency (RRA). At the RRA, I tutored refugees in English. These individuals came from all parts of the world with shocking and amazing and heartwarming stories. I worked within the class assisting the teacher, an amazing and dynamic man, and I tutored individuals who needed a little extra help. Never did I realize I would love something as much. There was one woman in particular who will stay with me forever. She looked older than her stated age and she had lived in Kenyan refugee camps as a Bantu Somali since the early 1990's. When she lived in Somalia, her husband was murdered and the scar left with this woman is deep. However, I was able to get through to her and even received an invitation to Eid ul Fitr at her house. When I began working, I had to stop volunteering as I didn't have any time in my new schedule.
In order to reconnect with this experience, I volunteered to be part of the new citizenship committee at the bar association. The responsibilities are quite simple: attend one of four swearing in ceremonies at the federal courthouse, give some brief remarks, and hand out American flag pins. I've only participated once before. I didn't exactly prepare a speech ahead of time, shocking...me not prepared? Procrastinating? Never! However, I used my experiences at RRA to hopefully inspire and commend everyone for their varying degrees of struggles to become a United States citizen. Additionally, I practically begged them to vote and take jury duty as an important responsibility. So I did the same, I stumbled a bit, at one point I thought I would get teary, but there was one woman in the audience who kept smiling and nodding her head. That got me through the speech.
Most everyone had a prepared speech and quoted our founding fathers, emphasized the importance of the constitution, or talked about the Revolutionary War. You see, that's not my thang. As usual, I like to make it personal. Instead, I spent more time discussing how amazing they all are for doing all this work to become citizens. At some point, I nearly choked up (don't tell) and I had to pause. I didn't look at my notes, I looked at them. I wished I could have made eye contact with every one of them during my speech but instead I shook their hand and smiled like a complete goofball. If I had known how much I enjoyed teaching and tutoring English as a Second Language, I might have taken a different path.
If you ever have a chance, watch the Citizenship Swearing in Ceremony. I promise that you won't regret it. And I wonder if any of the new citizens are from Taiwan.