After looking at some scribbled notes and further examining a calendar on my desk that displays the various appointments and interviews from the past year, one story that I covered in 2012 seems to remain with me more than any other.
It was a Tuesday morning in late June at Middleton Place. A summer shower had forced this occasion indoors, though the original plans called for it to be underneath the gently waving moss of an old oak tree. My view of it all was from the back of the room.
There was patriotic music, a color guard and a speaker. There were fidgety children and a few folks who forgot their umbrellas, meaning they were soaked by the time they ran across the giant field to reach shelter.
As with most rainfall in the summer, it soon stopped and gave way to the sauna. None of what was happening outside, though, seemed to matter.
What was about to take place inside, though, meant everything to 51 people and their families.
I pledge allegiance
Barely a hundred yards from where a signer of the Declaration of Independence once lived, America’s newest citizens declared their loyalty to the United States of America.
Some were older; most seemed between 20 and 40 years of age. They had already proven that they could read, speak and write basic English. All also had previously taken a test regarding U.S. history and government.
Ever heard the Pledge of Allegiance recited by people with German, Hispanic and Filipino accents? It’ll make you pay attention to the meaning of those words even more closely.
At the program’s conclusion, there were hugs and photos. The rain was gone, but the coolness of the early summer morning was moving headlong into a steamy afternoon.
America’s newest citizens were invited to roam the property as Middleton’s guests. The children were anxious to see the lambs, peacocks and horses.
The older folks were far more interested in sitting on a nearby bench in the shade under some sprawling branches.
While talking to some of those people, they fought back tears and expressed pride in the distinction they now embraced.
The “land of the free” seemed to have much greater significance to most of them than it does to most of us.
This land is your land
As 2013 unfolds, who knows if it’ll be better or worse than previous years? We hang onto hope, though it can be a slippery rope from time to time.
When I tire of the “Bovine Scatology”(the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s definition of B.S.) that comes from politicians on the subjects of fiscal cliffs, wars and gun control, I think back to that rainy June morning. It makes me believe that in spite of ourselves, we’ll get through it.
I try to look through the same prism that those 51 new citizens viewed their land of opportunity. Every one of them sought something special that the rest of us just casually recognize.
As much as we all love the spotlight and want to be noticed, much more might be learned just by watching from the back of the room.
These folks took a common-sense approach to seeking a life that offers certain rights connected to responsibilities. At times, it feels like common sense just isn’t that common anymore.
One word in the pledge that rarely rings true, to me, is “indivisible.” Some days it seems we’re all divided by one thing or another. Let’s hope the final few words never change ... “with liberty and justice for all.”
Reach Warren Peper at firstname.lastname@example.org.