lionel youmbi naturalized citizens.jpg

Lionel Youmbi, center, from Cameroon, joined immigrants from around the world who became U.S. citizens during a Naturalization Ceremony at Middleton Place on Tuesday. Wade Spees/Staff

To: The 58 people sworn in as U.S. citizens at Middleton Place on Tuesday.

From: Your fellow Americans.

Re: Welcome to the country.

On Tuesday morning, you took the oath of citizenship on land once walked by some of this nation’s founders, and underneath a live oak that’s probably been around since those times.

It was an ideal setting for such a beautiful ceremony, from the reading of the Declaration of Independence down to that acapella rendition of “America the Beautiful.”

We know you’ll never forget it, because we certainly won’t. It was moving to watch dozens of people born in Africa, Asia, Europe or even other parts of North and South America choose this country as their home.

Tuesday, all that hard work and long wait paid off and you saw that dream realized. Well, you’re going to fit in just fine.

As U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said, “America is a country of immigrants.”

Everyone in these United States, save for those of us descended from Native Americans, at some point had an ancestor do just what you did on Tuesday.

One day, this story will be part of your family’s lore.

And perhaps your grand accomplishment will remind some folks of their own family history.

Life in these United States

There are a few tips we’d like to pass along to make your transition easier.

Some of these, you’ve probably already noticed.

We drive on parkways, and park on driveways. We make German cars in South Carolina. And, this is important: “Shag” means something entirely different from what you may have heard across the pond.

Here, it’s a dance — people do it in public, fully clothed.

Yes, the language often makes no sense. “Hot” and “cool” can be antonyms or synonyms. Asking "what’s up?" is sometimes the same as asking "what’s going down?"

We are a nation of contradictions.

For some people, our flag is the enduring symbol of our freedom. For others, the right to burn that flag in protest is another symbol of that same freedom.

We fight. A lot. Stick around Charleston long enough, you’ll hear about something called the Civil War. And that has something to do with millions of our immigrants who came here involuntarily.

It’s all part of our story. Now, it's your story too.

Today, there are still some Americans who are intolerant but are outraged when someone displays any intolerance of their intolerance. We're still trying to figure that one out.

The president’s popularity is due in part to his anti-immigration positions, yet our first lady is an immigrant.

So, we’re diverse!

You aren’t exactly catching us on our best day. On Tuesday, you heard about the country’s beginning as a haven for people seeking religious freedom. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court was upholding a travel ban on other countries that was based on their religion.

There are some of those contradictions.

It’s an American thing.

A rich heritage

Your new country is an amazing place — and you should see as much of it as possible.

From the gorgeous deserts of the Southwest to the rocky coast of Maine, America truly is beautiful. If you haven’t already, visit the Statue of Liberty — which has greeted this country’s newest residents for more than a century.

America has long been the world’s great melting pot but some people have forgotten that. If, in the coming days, anyone tells you to “go back to your own country,” remember they don't speak for all of us. Pay them no mind.

Or, tell them you passed a test to become a United States citizen — and ask if they could do the same. Here's $10 that says anyone who would say such a thing flunks that test.

Some numbskulls think that’s how you make America great. It’s not.

You are.

Among those of you who raised your right hand and pledged allegiance to the United States on Tuesday was Lionel Youmbi. He came from Cameroon and his story echoes that of many new citizens.

He dreamed of coming here for a better life.

Now this country — in all its glory, rich history, natural beauty and political strife — is his as well. And we are stronger for it.

This country was built on immigration and we need to not forget that. So, to our 58 new fellow Americans, there is only one more thing to say:

Welcome home.

Reach Brian Hicks at