I recently watched a video of several hundred people taking the oath of allegiance to the United States on the steps of the library in Louisville, Kentucky. I was struck by the number of cultures that were represented by the various costumes and complexions. I was aware of a profound sense of gratitude in the scene, but the gratitude I sensed was not from the new citizens, but to them.
Here were people who had endured any number of challenges to come to this country and call America home. They brought their small children to be educated and trained in our schools, they brought their aging relatives who had departed familial and racial ties to embrace what we have to offer, and they brought their families to celebrate the promise they perceived in our institutions.
I felt honored by that trust, and realized that it was we and not they who should be grateful for the ceremony. Women and men in colorful costumes that reflect pride in their heritage, brown, tan, white and black faces that would soon be enriching our neighborhoods with exciting customs and cuisines. Voices that sound curious and challenging in new ways of using language, new music, new handicrafts, new art. Surely, some were here because of intolerable living conditions where they came from, but what underlay the motivation of each new citizen was a trust and sense of hope that is inspiring and hugely complimentary to those of us who were born into this culture that for us required no expression of choice or commitment.
So my message to these new neighbors is this: Thank you for joining and complimenting us by wanting to be our neighbors. I hope that I and my countrymen and women live up to the trust you have expressed. Please know that regardless of your race or religion or country of origin you are very welcome.
With a Perspective, I’m Larry Murphy.
Larry Murphy is the retired owner of an Irish pub. He lives in Sonoma.