Naturalization Ceremonies are an Opportunity to Mark Constitution Day and Citizenship Day
One way that federal courts celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, which is officially observed on September 17, is to participate in a naturalization ceremony for new citizens. These ceremonies are conducted not only in September but throughout the year at federal courthouses, as well as community landmarks, historic sites, and civic gathering places. Here are some ways that schools and their communities can become involved.
Students Welcome New Citizens to Constitutional Rights and Responsibilities
Federal courts conduct citizenship ceremonies, which are open to the public and may be attended by hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. These important civic events, conducted in courtrooms and at sites in the community, present an educational opportunity for promoting public understanding of the federal courts.
Action Steps: Schools may want to approach their local federal court to ask if they can volunteer as part of a service-learning project.The following are activities that some courts bring into their ceremonies.
School Participation: Options for students range from simply observing to taking an active part in the event. Examples include students:
- Serving as the color guard.
- Leading the Pledge of Allegiance and/or a patriotic song.
- Writing and delivering welcome letters to the new citizens at an appropriate time before, during, or after the event.
- Reading a personal essay related to the occasion.
- Greeting participants in a receiving line.
- Presenting the new citizens with flags.
- Staffing tables with information about jury service, voter registration, and community volunteerism.
- Conducting podcast interviews with new citizens.
- Interacting with people from countries whose language they are learning.
Community Involvement: Civic organizations also may want to participate in citizenship ceremonies in some of the ways described here.Sometimes local members of Congress participate in naturalization ceremonies. On occasion, the media covers the events.
Student Example: A successful activity sponsored by the District of Oklahoma invited eighth graders in Oklahoma City to write welcome letters to newly naturalized citizens.
- Excerpts from Eighth Graders’ Welcome Letters to New Citizens
A group of eighth graders wrote welcome letters to new citizens who were naturalized at ceremonies in Oklahoma City on April 24, 2009. The following are excerpts from their letters. Here are some questions for discussion:
- If you were to welcome new citizens to America, what rights and responsibilities would you tell them are important?
- Read the following quotes from letters written by eighth graders and rank the top five that are most important to you.
- Talk about the right or responsibility that is at the top of your list.
“Always remember that the government exists to serve you. Our government encourages you to speak what you believe is right and what the government has failed to do.”
“You need to make sure you vote because no matter what you think, your single vote does make a difference.”
“As a citizen you make a difference. If there is a problem in your community, if you don’t like something that is happening, step in and stand up for your rights.”
“People risk their lives, families, and reputations to get into this country and you made it. You have become a citizen who is not illegal and is not in fear of being found out. Never forget what it took to get where you are today.”
“... with those freedoms and rights also comes your duties and responsibilities ... including obeying the law, paying taxes and serving jury duty when called upon. However, your taxes do go to good causes, such as defending the nation, providing health insurance for senior citizens, and the building of roads and/or bridges.”
“My teacher told us about some of the questions on the naturalization test. I don’t think I could have answered even half of the questions correctly.”
“Being American lets us have our opinions on things like politics. We must always respect those people who have a different opinion or an opinion you may dislike. This gives everyone the freedom to have their own opinion.”
“... with these new rights comes responsibilities for U.S. citizens. Jury duty is also required. And, although it’s not necessarily the most fun thing to do, it is necessary for people to have a fair and speedy trial.”
“You have finally been included in 'We the People!'”
“All your hard work and determination has finally paid off! You now get to take part in the duties, responsibilities and rights of each and every American citizen.”
“America does its best to keep everyone safe and, in order to do so, there are some laws. They will greatly benefit you and everyone around you if you follow them. They are not there to limit your freedom but expand your safety.”
“I hope that you are as proud of yourself as all of us are of you. I hope that you will forever uphold your new country and that you will forever be proud of what you have done.”
“My father actually became an American citizen a couple years ago and he said it was one of his proudest moments.”
“I love living in America for all the wonderful opportunities and now you can be part of all of it. This is the beginning of a new chapter in your life.”
“Dear Fellow U.S. Citizen, I want you to know, even though I personally don’t know you, I’m very happy for you and proud of you.”
“Being a citizen of the United States comes with many responsibilities, but I’m sure you will keep that in mind!”
“Thank you so much for all you have done for us. Congratulations on becoming a new citizen.”
“We have the best food I have ever tasted. There is nothing like eating a cheese burger or steak and baked potato, I hope you love America as much as I.”
An eighth grade American citizen
“I hope you will have a better life in this country. You might find some difficulties but when you are in America someone will always be looking out for you.”
Background: Constitution Day and Citizenship Day
Since 2004, when schools receiving federal funds were mandated by Congress to observe Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17, the Supreme Court's annual Conversation on the Constitution, has become an anticipated part of the national educational celebration. High school American Government teachers may contact their local federal court to request a viewing and discussion of the tape with a judge.
The jury service video is part of a series produced by the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. The videotaped conversation is part of The Sunnylands Constitution Project, available at AnnenbergClassroom.org.
Although Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is officially observed on September 17, every day is Constitution Day at the federal courts. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts continually offers updated Constitution-related educational resources on this web site. The sites listed below are portals to a wealth of materials and programs offered by other institutions.