This past Sunday—August 7th—I gave a short speech regarding the importance of civic engagement and the power of American citizenship. Keep scrolling to read the speech:
I would like to stress the importance and significance of your citizenship; its value is not limited to just the certificate in front of you today or the oath you took when you were officially naturalized. It is great to become a citizen, but it is even greater to exercise citizen responsibilities and rights. A whole new world has opened up to you, and I mean that in a figurative and literal sense.
When you first sat down with us at SAN for your citizenship appointment, one of the first questions we asked was: “why do you want to become a citizen?” One of the main answers we received was “to travel more.”I remember just a few years ago—before my parents were citizens—we would take long, 3 leg flights all the way to Chennai from Chicago. Layovers would last hours at a time where we would be cramped in the airport with no fresh air or food. We couldn’t step outside the airport and be able to get back in without an American passport or a travel visa. Now, on our trips over, we are able to step out of the airport in London, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai to see our friends and family after years without having to obtain extra visas. That is a power of American citizenship; it quite literally opens us up to a new world. Unlike green card holders and lawful permanent residents, you also have the ability to travel for more than 6 months at a time without repercussions. With this importance of family, you now also have more power to petition to bring family permanently to this county, as well.
With this luxury, we—as American citizens—also gain access to a new set of responsibilities and powers. As great as you may perceive this country to be, we can all agree that it is not perfect. This is where your new civic abilities become so important. You are now eligible for federal government jobs and can run for public office. You can even volunteer for the city as a poll worker. Even more important than either of those is the ability to vote. Voting is a civic responsibility and right. Voting and elections are what dictate and guide our futures. Each ballot has a say in each of our own futures—including who is making important decisions and what policies become law.
This is even more imperative to recognize here in the state of California. In our state, we don’t just vote for elected officials, we also vote on propositions and ballot initiatives—which include funding issues, public benefits, education policies, taxes, and more. Now, we understand this can feel overwhelming. We do not want this right and responsibility to feel like a burden. So keep your eyes wide open for future SAN resources and feel free to come to us with any questions. Around October, SAN will provide a guide on voting issues. This year is more important than most. 2022 is an election year; the ballot this November will impact the many years to come. It often feels like immigrant voices are overlooked in this nation. The civic abilities provided with citizenship amplifies your voices. Please let the certificate in front of you be a reminder of the greater power you now have.
By: Cynthia Chockalingam – Civic Engagement Coordinator @ SAN