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Constitution Day and Citizenship Day

Many schools are required to teach about the Constitution on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, which is observed nationally on September 17.  In communities across the nation, schools meet this requirement by joining with their federal court to have students observe or participate in naturalization ceremonies.

Naturalization Ceremonies are Living Civics Lessons

By the Numbers
  • Nearly 4.3 million naturalization tests were given in the past six years.
  • 91 percent of test takers passed the test the first time.

Students are an integral part of the way that schools and federal courts observe Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17 every year. When students of all ages participate in naturalization ceremonies presided over by federal judges in their communities, they take away a real-life experience of civic engagement. The ceremonies are scheduled at courthouses across the country and at other significant locations, including iconic cultural sites; natural and civic landmarks; and historic places.

Observing or participating in naturalization ceremonies on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day helps schools meet a Congressional mandate to teach about the Constitution on September 17 every year. In 2004, Congress mandated that schools receiving federal funding provide education about the Constitution on that date.

  • "(b) Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold educational program on the United States Constitution on September17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution."

Courts have developed activities and how-to information to prepare students and to involve them in the ceremonies in simple yet significant ways. While waiting for the event to start, students in attendance can answer the questions in this annual quiz. These ceremonies offer an opportunity to interact with the federal judges who administer the Oath of Citizenship, some of whom -- like these three judges -- also are naturalized citizens.

Some Pathways to Citizenship Become Pathways to the Federal Bench

Naturalization ceremonies are significant to every federal judge who administers the Oath of Citizenship. However, for these three judges, and many more, the ceremony brings back memories of their own journey to citizenship and, ultimately, to the federal bench.

At naturalization ceremonies they preside over, U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal, of Maine; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen, of Los Angeles; and Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Denny Chin, of New York; administer the same Oath of Citizenship that their parents took or that they took as young people.

In fact, on the world stage, the summer of 2015 marks significant developments that changed the lives of two of these judges — and the fabric of America — the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and the 50th year after the escalation of the Vietnam War. Both events, decades apart, brought immigrants to the United States including two children — George Singal in Maine and Jacqueline Nguyen in California — both of whom grew up to serve on the federal bench. The parents of a third child came from Hong Kong to New York seeking a better life for their children, including their son Denny Chin, a little boy who also grew up to become a federal judge.

In these four-minute videos, the judges talk about their respective pathways to the bench from different cultures and different parts of the world. Each agrees that swearing in naturalized citizens is a meaningful and emotional experience for them every time they do it.

View U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal's pathway to the bench.

View Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen's pathway to the bench.

View Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Denny Chin's pathway to the bench.