September 17th is known in the United States as a Constitution Day and Citizenship Day
On the morning of June 18th, 2015, First Lady Michelle Obama was already in the Rotunda in the National Archives; her mission being to congratulate 35 new American citizens and their families. She gave a speech signaling a breakthrough in the process in which many non-American families go through in their mission to become citizens of the USA.
Besides the first lady, Charles Johnson, homeland security, and Juan Cua Monroy, a new citizen was actively leading the other new citizens in pledging their allegiance to the USA in the archives (the photo was taken by Jeff Reed who works at the National Archives).
Naturalization is the process of acquiring citizenship by someone who is a non-citizen. Since the birth of the US, this process has been subjected to different circumstances and rules.
For instance, in 1940, the US Congress authorized the US President through a resolution to be issuing a proclamation each year which designates the third Sunday in May to be the “I am an American Day”. These celebrations were different in each city, accompanied by a holiday to celebrate the incorporation of new US naturalized citizens.
In the year 1952, this day was re-named and was celebrated on September 17 annually but for the same purpose. Currently, it’s called “Citizenship Day” and it commemorates the signing of the Constitution on September 17 1787 and celebrates everyone who becomes a citizen either through age or naturalization.
According to the 1952 law, the day should be properly observed by all and citizens should know their opportunities and responsibilities both at the state and country level. And from 2004, celebration and observance of this day which is now called Constitution and Citizenship day include educational programs for federal employees and educational materials for public educational facilities.
The “Citizenship” and “I am an American Day” is also included in special celebrations for one undergoing naturalization to become an American citizen. These celebrations led to many efforts after World war II that placed value on American citizenship and its value to everyone.
And from the 1970s, the first naturalization ceremonies were held in the Rotunda of the National Archives to celebrate Citizenship Day. The first documented ceremony took place on September 14th, 1978 whereby 30 individuals underwent naturalization to become US citizens. The Charters of Freedom were present during this event and a special event followed thereafter on September 17th, 1987 where the citizenship of the 30 was celebrated simultaneously with the 200th anniversary since the US constitution was signed in.
There is also another photo taken by Hugh Talman of the national archives that shows a new citizen swearing allegiance to the US in the National Archives.
The 1987 naturalization ceremony was five days of celebrations that included 200 army personnel who took a copy of the constitution from the National Archives to Fort Monroe, Virginia. There was also an 87-hour vigil in the Rotunda where all pages of the constitution were displayed since, at the time, only the first and last pages were being permanently displayed.
Naturalization ceremonies are being held in the National Archives up to date and they’re commonly led by Archivists including David S. Ferriero, the current archivist of the United States. Most speakers and guests in these events are celebrities, former or current presidents, sports icons, first ladies, or United States Archivist.
There is also a naturalization ceremony in December annually that celebrates the Bill of Rights adoption in the country.
It’s no secret that getting US citizenship is very important. And there is even more significance when someone takes an oath swearing allegiance in front of documents that created the country. The significance of this day was also summed up by First Lady Michelle Obama during her speech at a recent naturalization ceremony in the National Archives.
Michelle Obama said that she was happy that she was standing only a few feet away from 50 signatures of the people who signed the declaration in American that went to change the course of the country. She added that the 50 of them were not American citizens by birth, but rather they were naturalized and became citizens of the country.
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