Sept. 11 is a date indelibly inked on the American psyche. Eighteen years after the terrorist attacks, last Wednesday marked another national annual day of reckoning, remembrance and reflection. It was cause to look back on the nearly 3,000 lives lost, but also on the incredible acts of selfless heroism that drew us together as a nation when others would tear us apart. And as those heroic acts brought light to that darkest of days, there too was cause for celebration this Sept. 11. Two dozen people from 12 countries gathered on the lawn at Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park to take an oath of citizenship.
Naturalization ceremonies began being held in Acadia in 2015 as part of a partnership between the National Park Service and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider said it was an honor to host the event, adding, “I hope every one of these new United States citizens return here year after year with their friends and families to enjoy this amazing place.”
Becoming a citizen can be a long, arduous journey and we commend these new Americans on their perseverance and commitment to attaining that goal. It has been said that the measure of a country can be taken by the number of people who want to call it home. These are people who really want to make their home here, and there are many more like them.
With all the doom and gloom, divisiveness and political noise, it can be easy to lose sight of a simple fact: It’s good to be an American today.
A 2016 report by the Brookings Institution analyzed a recent study that calculated a country’s economic welfare using such factors as growth in per capita income, work schedules, life expectancy and inequality. “This measure confirms that life in America is good, compared to other countries and to the country’s own past, and is still improving,” according to the report. That does not mean that all is rosy — as the report notes, “there has been a significant slowdown in the pace of improvement that requires attention from policymakers” — but conditions are certainly not bleak overall.
Americans now live longer and have more freedoms than did previous generations. The economy has been strong and unemployment low. We take for granted services, living conditions and conveniences of which people in other parts of the world can only dream. We are free to dissent against our government without fear of imprisonment and to live, worship and raise our families more or less as we see fit.
But Americans are nervous and insecurity about the future abounds. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 60 percent of voters feel the country’s economic system predominantly benefits those already in power. Crushing student debt, growing income inequality and the shadow of climate change are critical issues needing attention.
We’re up to those challenges. Optimism in the face of adversity is one of the defining characteristics of the American spirit.
In 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told the Daughters of the American Revolution convention, “Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
Our common history is that of people who desperately wanted to be Americans and those who were willing to fight for their principles. So let’s give a hearty welcome to our 24 new countrymen and women and let us not lose sight of the privileges — and responsibilities — of being an American.