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An ongoing celebration

We celebrate our nation’s Independence Day with fireworks, parades, picnics and performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Americans across our great nation use this day to celebrate how fortunate we all are to live in a free country and they do so in a way which brings together family, friends and communities.

The good folks in Oran have been celebrating the Fourth of July for 53 years now with their annual picnic which features an antique tractor display, music, games, and according to former Congressman Bill Emerson the best fried chicken in southeast Missouri. Willow Springs attracts people from all over with one of the most impressive fireworks displays in the region, while the City of Jackson will celebrate Independence Day with a 5k walk/children’s fun run. These are just a few of the great celebrations happening all across south central and southeast Missouri this weekend, a scene which can be found repeated across our nation.

The 4th of July truly is a special celebration, one that memorializes the valiant fight for our freedom, and symbolizes the immense national pride that so many Americans are proud to display. However, while the vast majority of us have always recognized this celebration and enjoyed the freedoms our country represents to the world, there are others who come and learn these values and wish to become a part of our culture.

On the 4th of July this year, I have the distinct honor of celebrating those who are becoming American citizens the right way, those who went through the process, waited their turn and followed our laws. I will be participating in a naturalization ceremony in Cape Girardeau for a small group of individuals who will become official U.S. citizens. It is something we don’t often think of as American citizens ourselves, but I couldn’t think of a better day throughout the entire year to take the oath of citizenship for our country and become an American on the very day we celebrate our independence.

The path to American citizenship is certainly not an easy one. It has many requirements that must be met including being able to read, write, speak and understand English, and they also must pass a roughly 100 question test on American history and government that embarrassingly some Americans would struggle with. However, one of the most profound requirements that isn’t tested, but remains true is the sincere belief and excitement of each of these individuals to be able to consider themselves Americans. Often times our dreams are tied to things or places where we want to see ourselves professionally, but as Americans we overlook the mere opportunity to achieve those dreams because we simply are Americans. For many of these new citizens however their dream was to become an American, and that is something that is truly special for any of us to recognize. Especially if you are able to see the tears of pride that new American citizens express through the ceremony I am honored to be a part of.

As we celebrate the birth of our nation, we also celebrate the core of our beliefs and our identity as Americans. We take pride and honor our forefathers whose love of freedom created this nation we call home and remember the men and women serving in our armed forces who are committed to protecting our freedom through their service and sacrifice. However, as our 4th of July celebrations end this year there will be a few new Americans, whose celebration will be ongoing and take place every day because they have been welcomed into the greatest society and nation in the world.

Jason Smith

Jason Smith

This report was filed July 1, 2016

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