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Thus, in a few short years these inspiring assemblies of citizens, having at heart the future of our country and the world, have offered convincing proof that a National Conference on Citizenship is more than a noble idea-it is now a reality.

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Chapter 2

SIGNIFICANCE OF CITIZENSHIP

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O BE A CITIZEN of the United States is to claim membership

in the richest, the most powerful nation in the history of the world. Better still, it is to be a part of the greatest national force on earth dedicated to a belief in the dignity of the individual and to furthering realization of the concept of human liberty.

The story of this country is the story of you and me, your neighbors and mine, their parents and ours.

It is the narrative of what our ancestors endured, accomplished, and received. It is also the record of how we of the present generation are dealing with the heritage of American democracy, of how we are accepting its rights and privileges and discharging its duties and responsibilities.

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GENERAL Douglas MACARTHUR. Excerpt from “I Am an American Day” 1948 message. “I am an American! In that birthright is found the most precious heritage known

to man.

For there are embodied within it as rights, inviolate and inalienable, equality of opportunity, equality of justice, and equality of dignity. They permit men to rise from lowly birth to high station, from subordination to leadership, and infuse in the hearts and minds of all so endowed a spirituality which generates those great human forces essential to material progress-courage, energy, and initiative. On this day set apart, it is for us to rededicate our devotion to the great moral values drawn from that heritage and welded into the concept of Americanism, which both patterns and buttresses our free way of life.” Atlanta Journal. Excerpt from Editorial, May 27, 1945.

"American citizenship today, for the newcomers as for those who have enjoyed its privileges in the past, is more than an opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is a tremendous responsibility, too, obligating the individual to work for restoration of justice and peace to a broken world. If it is to be done, the old citizen, as well as the new, must reaffirm his faith in the fundamentals of American citizenship, and remain deeply conscious of the necessity for their preservation.”

Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Excerpt from editorial, May 16, 1948.

“In the darkness that has settled over so much of the world and which shadows the existence of men in places where individual liberty still struggles to live, the United States of America has become the source of hope and aid to the millions of oppressed who once knew freedom and the hated enemy of the overlords of darkness who would destroy it wherever they can * * * To say 'I am an American' also must be a vow that one is willing to fight to keep alive the whole meaning of that proud statement. Otherwise the world's greatest title is undeserved.”

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As we pause on Citizenship Day to honor citizenship and figuratively view the vast expanse of our Nation, it seems a far cry from the time when a few men stood on a large rock at Jamestown, Virginia, on guard against hostile Indians, while others of their small band worshipped in a little church nearby. Since that day tens of millions have landed on our shores, the greatest population shift in recorded history.

Citizenship of the United States takes on a deeper meaning today than ever before. Never in the history of mankind has citizenship been so eagerly sought in any country as it has been of late years in the United States. Since 1940, when the dark clouds of war began to hover over our nation, about 2,700,000 persons have forsworn allegiance to their native lands and pledged their loyalty to America. Under the authority of the Second War Powers Act of 1942, approximately 144,000 noncitizens serving honorably in the armed forces of the United States were naturalized. Of this number over 21,000 were naturalized overseas through the administrative process. There were about 120 countries and their possessions | represented in this number.

For the first time in the history of our country, its citizenship was granted on foreign soil. One of the representatives of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who was specially designated by the commissioner to naturalize aliens in our armed services abroad, gives a graphic account of the circumstances and surroundings under which he held inductions, “in Nissen huts, amid howling blizzards, on lurching ships on the high seas, on hospital sick beds, in cork forests, and on the blazing deserts.”

A contingent of Navy men became citizens in a remote fjord in Iceland. A Netherlander took the oath in a tiny cabin on a British ship in Icelandic waters. On the mainland of Italy, naturalization hearings had to be shifted from the headquarters offices to subterranean air-raid shelters because of an air-raid alarm. “In the happiest and proudest day of my life," as he described it to his buddies, a native of Italy became a citizen of the country he had learned to love. A few weeks later he was killed near the Italian village where he was born. In England, a tailgunner in a well-known fighting squadron, the son of a German father and a Filipino mother, became a citizen. He had shot down four German

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planes over the continent within a period of three months and had been awarded four decorations. He had been wounded several times and bore scars of battle received in defending the flag to which he was swearing allegiance. He, also, was later killed in action.

Again in 1953 special legislation ’ relating to aliens serving in our Armed Forces made it possible for representatives of the Attorney General to grant citizenship to our fighting men on foreign soil. During the time this law was in effect about 7900 of our military personnel were naturalized outside the borders of this country, as well as about 22,800 in the United States.

After witnessing some of these inspirational citizenship induction ceremonies, an officer back from the campaigns of North Africa and Italy said: “When you have seen men who have been decorated on the field of battle for defending the principles of liberty, and you realize that their wounds and decorations came before they raised their right hands to take the oath of allegiance; when you have seen them proudly leave the ceremony of induction as American citizens to continue to fight, and if necessary, to die, in defense of the rights and privileges of United States citizenship, you feel deeply and appreciate more fully the significance of that citizenship.”

Not since the days when Paul proudly and significantly proclaimed, "I am a man of Tarsus”-a citizen of Rome has membership in a nation carried with it more meaning than lies in the simple statement, “I am a citizen of the United States.” United States citizenship means far more in the world today than Roman citizenship or any other citizenship ever meant. Founded on deeper truths, surrounded by more lasting freedoms—more universal in their application, our citizenship has no equal.

The heritage of our citizenship is so rich, so full, so complete, that no one could possibly explore all its treasures. It carries with it as many shades of meaning as there are citizens of this great Nation Limited only by the rights of all, it affords each an opportunity to follow his own particular bent, to seek and reach his own particular goal. Each citizen may interpret his citizenship in terms of his own ideals and all may find their ideals in the tenets of our noble country. '8 U. S. C. 1440.

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