TO BECOME A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Photo by Swapnil Bhagwat 

I had the great honor to be the keynote speaker for a Naturalization ceremony in Louisville, KY where 98 new American citizens from 35 different countries around the world, took their oath of allegiance to the United States of America.  Here are the English and Spanish versions that might be of your students interest when discussing immigration and community building.

Special thanks to my AP Spanish Literature students, Anna, Eleanor, Fisher, Lilly, Grant, Ella Grace, Cal and Luke  who gave me a hand turning in good English what I wrote in Spanish with my heart.

To access the Spanish version of the keynote Click HERE

Good morning,

My name is Diego Ojeda. I was born in Colombia and today I have the honor to talk to you, who are feeling the same way that I felt 15 years ago when I sat in your place.

 If we could remember the day we were born, surely we would see the happy, proud, and excited faces of our parents. We would hear the doctors and nurses congratulating our mothers for our beauty. We would listen to our parents conversing with our extended families and their friends. If we could remember the day that we came into the world, surely there would not be a single moment of sadness, doubt, or loneliness in our lives. Remembering the beauty and special nature of our first breath would be enough to lift us by the hand for the rest of our lives.

We would walk sure of ourselves, proud, and happy about who we are and where we came from, with the conviction that each morning, we will open our eyes to a better day than yesterday. But the mystery of life and our selective memory, only allow us to remember all of these hidden moments in the last minutes before we part from life. What is the mind but an impeccable and giant device of memory, capable of storing thoughts, feelings, and emotions? Every second the brain is capable of saving countless aspects of our lives, however we can only remember those moments that have impacted us and taught us something at the same time.

I have always believed that our main function in life is to choose, select, and archive memories in different compartments of our brain. In this way, we know exactly where to find solutions when we face confusing situations. But for reasons that are out of our hands, sometimes we encounter situations where we cannot find the solutions. This is precisely the case for those human beings that have had to leave their homes to find answers and solutions in other lands. Immigration is a natural instinct of survival, which all people must have the right to use. It’s enough to observe nature to understand that the world’s borders are not so limiting.

I feel the same strong emotion when I see the Canadian geese flying over Louisville’s beautiful blue sky. I imagine that in the moment they fly over me, they have already travelled thousands and thousands of miles, looking for better conditions for their lives and the lives of their families.

I am an immigrant. And because of that, I know that we came to this country looking for the answers to all those doubts that prevented our lives from blossoming in our past. I know in this precise moment, thousands of images are flashing through your mind, thousands of feelings are flying through your heart, and thousands of reasons are running through your brain, all making you feel very sure of this important step that you are taking. Today, every single one of you has an opportunity that very few will have in their lives. The possibility to reinvent yourself, the possibility to wake up every morning knowing that each day is a new opportunity. If there is something that makes the United States a unique and special country, it is the fact that here you can always redeem yourself. In the United States, your mistakes do not define who you are. On the contrary. America values the capacity that you have to overcome problems. This country gives us the opportunity to know who we really are.

Today, you are leaving behind many things in your life, but never forget your origin. Never forget all the places and faces where you have left a piece of your heart. This is a country of immigrants, and every one of us has had a part in creating the place it is today. This country is a beautiful canvas in which every color is an expression of life, of happiness, of love, and of hope. This country is a beautiful melody in which many languages and multiple accents come together in harmony to form a community. 

I remember the day I became a United States citizen. I experienced a feeling that I had achieved something — like I had reached a very important goal. Although I felt that way, and we are here today to congratulate you for achieving your citizenship, it is important to remember that today is the beginning of your journey, not final realization of your goal. Starting today, you have the ability to be yourselves, to make the pride of being a new citizen resonate in every moment of your life and in every interaction you have with other citizens.

In becoming a United States citizen, I was given the opportunity to be an example for the community that embraced me. True citizenship is not determined by a piece of paper; rather it manifests through our attitudes within the communities we inhabit.

True citizenship grows much stronger with every smile, with every handshake, and with every moment we feel compassion and unity. Becoming a citizen of the United States will not just change your life.

What you have achieved today is important because now you hold in your hands the possibility to change the life and spirit of every single person here. This purpose will inspire you to work to make this country an even better place for those who, thanks to your decision, will have more opportunities in the future. Congratulations!

@Copyright 2020 Diego Ojeda,  this material is intended for educational purposes and it’s free.  It is prohibited to profit from it in any way or form. For questions contact Diego Ojeda @ diego@srojeda.com

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2 Comments

  1. I am so proud to know you, to have worked alongside you, and most importantly, to call you friend! Thank you, Diego, for all the work you do to bridge cultural divides.

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