Opinion: Citizenship oath does not speak of caring, community

Yesterday I went to a naturalization ceremony at Beeman Elementary School in New Haven. It was, on the whole, a heartwarming and inspiring experience. Thirty-one people from all over the world becoming U.S. citizens. The teachers, students, staff and administration at Beeman, the music director and singers from Mount Abraham Union High School, the Girl Scouts, and members of the Bristol band, as well as Honorable Colleen A. Brown worked together to put on a creative, professional and welcoming ceremony. I felt proud to be a part of the community.
In stark contrast to all of this is the content of the Oath of Allegiance those becoming citizens were asked to recite. It speaks only of completely renouncing any loyalty to country of origin (is this really possible?); and being willing to bear arms, perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces, and “perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law.” Nowhere is there any mention of developing love of this country and the people in it, playing a role in and making a commitment to community, working hard to make the U.S. a better place, helping the children and the elderly and the vulnerable in the community, being creative and always growing, not making assumptions and not taking things personally. … I could go on and on.
What does it mean to be an American citizen? Is it to reach out to others and be as open and caring as possible, or is it to spend our time being sure we isolate ourselves, shut others out, let fear govern us? True strength comes through communicating, reaching out, caring, having the confidence to be open to other people and ideas.
For those interested, here is the Oath of Allegiance: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state of 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 American 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.”
Deborah Young
New Haven

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