|Council for America My
"To Empower to Practise Good
|965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422
||T: (610) 277-0149
||F: (610) 277-3992
Im Ja P. Choi
Steve S. Choi
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
Choon Ki Yoo
Ae Sook Yoon
Il Joong Yoon
|Director for Community Relations
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
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
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