Celebrate Citizenship Day

September 16, 2008

"You who have been born in America, I wish I could make you understand what it is like [to] not be an American - [to] not have been an American all your life- and then, suddenly, with the words of a man in flowing robes to be one, for that moment and forever after. One moment you belong with fathers to a million dead yesterdays-the next you belong with America to a million unborn tomorrows."
-- Naturalized American Citizen George Magar Mardikian, a native of Armenia who
was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Harry S. Truman for his
contributions to his adopted country

Today is Citizenship Day and it is our chance to highlight the many benefits that citizenship brings to individuals, families, and communities. Citizenship Day commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787 at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. President Truman established Citizenship Day in 1952 to honor and celebrate native born citizens and foreign-born Americans who have become naturalized citizens during the past year. One such citizen is Lopez Lomong, a former child prisoner in war-torn East Africa who was among the so-called Lost Boys of Sudan. Just 12 months after becoming a U.S. citizen he led the United States Olympic team into a packed National Stadium during the opening ceremony in Beijing! The story of Lopez Lomong reflects the core values of America, as a country that opens the door to give new opportunities, dreams and hopes.

This day gives us an opportunity to celebrate the work we do, the value of citizenship, and the contributions of immigrants to our communities. On the very first Citizenship Day, President Truman exhorted all citizens to educate themselves about our government, stay informed of the "great problems of the day," and exercise the right to vote. He said, "The success of free government depends upon the willingness of the citizen to participate in it, to contribute to it, and to sacrifice for it."

Citizenship Day, sometimes called Constitution Day, is an important opportunity to remind ourselves and our communities about the rights and responsibilities of being citizens both in the United States and as part of our global community. As citizens, it is our responsibility to become active participants in our democracy, and to make sure that everyone's civil rights are protected.

We've put together some resources that we hope you'll find useful: