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What makes America strong

Posted: January 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Carl Kanowski Carl Kanowski
Carl Kanowski

So, a few weeks ago, did you notice that barely perceptible stirring in the air? A surge of genuine ecstasy?

Maybe you were too caught up in your every day routine – going to work, hassling with the kids, fighting the competition, to have felt the phenomenon. But it was there, it was real.

It was a life-changing ceremony that I was privileged to attend.

Judge Howard Matz swore in my friend, Angie, a native of Argentina, and about 3,000 fellow applicants into citizenship of the United States.

The applicants, now new USA citizens, waited in line for hours to attend the ceremony. That was after they had qualified for citizenship by, among other things, successfully passing a detailed exam on US history and government. They had to answer questions that some of us might find challenging.

Questions such as, “How many amendments does the Constitution have?” Quick, before you go to Google, can you answer that? It’s 27. Or, “How many members of the House of Representatives are there?” Answer, 435. “Who is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?” John Roberts. “When was the Constitution written?” No, not 1776. 1787. All of these people had to know the answer to these and 96 other sometimes more difficult questions.

These naturalized citizens came from over 90 countries. Yes, certainly from Mexico. But also from Canada, Iraq, Korea, South Africa, Great Britain, to name just a few.

And these are not simply manual laborers. They’re lawyers (like Angie), heads of billion-dollar banks (like her husband), successful actors (like her son), or medical professionals (like her daughter).

These are people who enrich America, who will make it stronger, better, more tolerant. And these people were thrilled to be admitted. In fact, there was even a Marine sergeant who took the oath of citizenship that day. He had already had one tour in Afghanistan. Here is a man who believes so strongly in what America offers that he offers his service (in a move that could lead to his demise) before we have extended the offer of fellow citizenship.

That stirring in the air? That was the measurable increase in Americans (in this case, new Americans) proud to call themselves American. During the ceremony, “God Bless The USA” by Lee Greenwood was broadcast. All the new citizens stood and cheered, singing along, chanting, “I know I’m free.”

These folks weren’t born into what many of us take for granted. They had to work to become citizens, effectively turning their back on the land of their birth.

Please join me in saying, “Welcome to America. We’re thrilled to have you.”

On another note, this is my last column for The Signal. It’s been my honor and pleasure to write it. I have especially enjoyed working with my editor, Jana Adkins. I want to say “Thank You” to both The Signal and to all who have taken the time to read my columns, whether you agreed with them or not. So, now, it is off to other writing adventures.

Carl Kanowsky of Kanowsky & Associates is an attorney in the Santa Clarita Valley. More information about his practice can be found at He may be reached by email at Kanowsky’s column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.


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