The CAMC Seminar

Council for America My Country
"To Empower to Practise Good Citizenship"

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422 T: (610) 277-0149 F: (610) 277-3992

Jerry Boucher
Im Ja P. Choi
Steve S. Choi
Mary Etezady
Don Kim
Il Hwan Kim
Sang Joo Kim
Director for Systems Management
Director for Community Relations
Deputy Director for Voter Registration
Director for Outreach
Tae Shik Kwon
Jae Jin Ma
Willie Pai
Choon Ki Yoo
Ae Sook Yoon
Il Joong Yoon
Director for Community Relations
Deputy Secretary
Deputy Director for Outreach
Director for Ageing & Elder Care
Director for Voter Registration

Civic Duty and Good Citizenship

The Hon Loretta A Leader
District Justice, Magisterial District 38-1-03
Montgomery County, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
September 25, 2001

Good evening

Mr. Chairman and council members and thank you for opportunity to share my ideas and thoughts about being a good citizen and good American. In giving thought to what it means to be a "good citizen/American" I believe one must first be a good human being.

The old adage "do unto others as you would have them do onto you, if taken to heart can change you forever. It sounds like a simple undertaking, but the fact is it is very complex. It isn't always easy to reach out and touch someone of a different color, religious belief, or understand gender differences that are opposite our belief.

Ask any American what it means to be a U.S. citizen and most have little trouble affirming that it's different from -- and somewhat better than -- becoming a citizen anywhere else. Canadians and Kuwaitis have higher than average incomes, Swedes live longer, but Americans have the world's most enduring written constitution -- a living legacy of freedom that has survived profound changes in the society it governs.

The week of September 17 marked the beginning of the 214th anniversary celebration of constitution week and its signing. I feel certain that only a handful of people in this room and probably across the city knew about this celebration. This is the time when everyone should read and reread the constitution of the United States and reflect on what our forefathers did for us. Their forward thinking in the form of our constitution has been the framework of our government.

Many citizens take the constitution for granted. Some try to change it, tear it apart, while others hold it in respect for what it is.

Being a good American means hopefully, being properly registered to vote and going out to vote. Voting is the power of the people in the American way. Years ago, public policy allowed the publishing of the names of registered voters during election times and this public information was hung on boards and placed on street corners for everyone to see. People started searching for their names with great pride because it was publicly listed and indication of a "good American citizen" especially for immigrants. If your name was not on the list, either you had not registered to vote or you still were not an American citizen. In the early days, voter turnout was high. People got the day off from their jobs to go vote. Citizenship meant the right to vote both primary elections and major elections.

Ignorance about voting is epidemic in our country today. We have all heard remarks such as "I never vote in primary elections". These people do not realize that primaries are what give voters a choice. I have personally experienced a "Win" at a primary elections wherein I did not have to run in the general election. (Here explain cross filing)

You have heard people say "why bother voting", those politicians are crooks, my vote won't make a difference. I am here to tell you each and every vote is important. Elections are lost by few votes. Unfortunately, over the last 50 years, a true understanding of the importance of voting has been lost to the American people. American people are losing control over their government because fewer people vote. Millions of Americans are not sharing in the power of the ballot. The power of the ballot is therefore lost forever. One way to restore power to the American people is voters must go to the poles.

Certainly in this room everyone knows that America is made up of every race, color and creed under the sun. The inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty is for real: "From her beacon-hand flows world-wide welcome. Each succeeding wave of immigrants had a tough row to hoe. When the potato famine of 1846 devastated Ireland, thousands of Irishman flocked to our shores. They were greeted by signs in Boston, Philadelphia and New York that spelled out the message that "No Irish need apply" and those men fanned out across the nation in search of honest toil. And yet a descendant of those Irishmen became the thirty-fifth president of the United States. Our country stands today as the world's oldest living republic. We are the greatest sociological experiment that the world has ever known. If we fail our trust, democracy fails.

Like Ireland, the middle east has long been divided by ancient hatreds, hatreds that have no place on our shores. Religious wars and fierce ideological conflicts should never be a part of America; people came to her to escape religious and political persecution. Sure we've had our problems. What family doesn't? But they haven't stopped us. The total divisiveness that has burdened many other nations hasn't caught on here. We have our disagreements, but let some other country step on our tail and they'll find out how quickly Americans become united.

Each day that goes by seems to make us gel a little more. Maybe it's because each group of people who came here has given us their tastes in food and in music, their skills in art and designs and the custom of their lands. But most important, they brought with them an intense desire for freedom.

So bring your recipe for good Irish Stew with you but leave bigotry and hatred behind. Sing and dance to the Balalaika but bring no walls with you. Praise God anyway you so desire. Just allow your neighbor the same right. For each person you see has the same needs that you do. We all want respect, concern, and yes, love. When we all tear down walls of bigotry and prejudice and live in real harmony with ourselves and others, Then we'll say "I am an American" pure and simple. When that day comes, the world can count on us for another ten thousand years, for we'll be a brighter, a stronger, and an undivided America.

I can remember, as a little girl, standing up in my classroom every morning and reciting the pledge of allegiance. I did not know nor care that the pledge was first published in 1892 and that it was the result of a dream to "Fly a flag in every school".

As I grew older, I realized that by putting my hand on my heart and reciting the pledge, I belonged yes on ground that I was standing in Glenside, Pennsylvania. After growing up and better understanding the "pledge" my every word became precious to me. For hidden in its simplicity there lies a tremendous power. Our republic stands for the innate dignity of all mankind and one nation under God.

When a person wants to become a citizen and is qualified to undertake his "Oath Of Citizenship", there is a formal ceremony conducted by the U.S. magistrates court.

This very special oath clearly informs the citizen of the important responsibilities and duties of their citizenship. It forms a bond between the old and new and provides the essential ingredient of a prosperous multi-cultural society assimilation.

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty , of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen, that I will support and defend the constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces when required by law; and that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law; and that I take this obligation freely without mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

Can you believe that the government agency on the immigration and naturalization services have suggested the following?:

That the oath is too patriotic and contrary to the ideals of dual and world citizenship, because it requires the citizen to be, to swear allegiance to the United States.

It is too militaristic because it requires the citizen to be, to promise to defend the United States, or provide alternate service, and is too religious because it concludes with, "So help me God."

The INS has asserted that the citizenship test should be made so easy that failure is impossible; that the swearing-in ceremony conducted in a U.S. district court before a U.S. district judge, is burdensome and unnecessary, and that the entire naturalization process could and should be handled through the U.S. mail.

I share with you the response from the Gainesville chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution to the INS.


The oath of citizenship clearly informs the citizen to be of important responsibilities and duties of their citizenship.

We live in a very unstable world in which armed conflict and revolution happen to be commonplace, and peace is the exception. The promise to defend the United States is not a unique or meaningless requirement.

The reference to "God" in the oath adds dignity, solemnity and spiritual quality of the swearing-in ceremony.

This oath has served the United States shortly after our ancestors established this country. It has served millions well, and should not be altered.

The citizenship test should not be "dumped down", the dignity of the swearing-in ceremony conducted before the U.S. magistrate should not be diminished, and the value of obtaining U.S. citizenship [shouldn't be] taken lightly ..

How frightening are those suggestions in today's society, imagine allowing anyone and everyone to become a "mail order citizen". Personally, I feel that we'd have every terrorist group signing on to become an American by mail.

Everyday the face of America is changing in every way. The tapestry that is America is composed of so many different cultures and colors. Let's face it, looking at white all the time is boring. I like to think of the tapestry as a beautiful garden laden with an assortment of different flowers. The diversity of flowers; some big, some small, some bright, some muted, some fragrant, some not so fragrant, but each one adds to the beauty of the garden and compliments one to another in its own special way. Similarly, being a multi-cultural American means looking at my Asian brothers or sisters and applauding their difference.

In dealing with so many diverse communities of people in my court, I feel incumbent to congratulate the Asian American community. Typically Asians typify what America is really about. Good work ethics, good family providers with a strong spiritual sense. Their commitment and respect to their elderly is commendable. And certainly the Asians are a good role model for all American who have lost these worthwhile qualities.

To me, being an American means when we tear down the walls of bigotry and prejudice and live in real harmony with ourselves and others, then we can all say, "I am an American". Being an American means, freedom makes citizenship an opportunity, not a requirement. Being a good American citizen means, with every right comes responsibility to show your goodness.

Together as we face the difficult days ahead, they will be bearable if we remember that being an America means not only reaching out to someone with whom you feel nothing in common, someone who is different in color, culture or race, but being an American means not only reaching out but sometimes embracing far beyond arm's reach. Achieving this will be your first real step toward a bright new world where peace and harmony will reign.

Being a good citizen, good American means risking your life to save many as recently demonstrated by those who took on the terrorists on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

True heroes, True Americans.

Thank you.

CAMC is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan, civic and educational organisation. It promotes ways to enhance good citizenship and its practice. It is solely supported by voluntary contributions.CAMC strives to provide public service pro bono publico in the public interest. All staff members are non-paid volunteers.


This page last updated 1/10/2002 jdb