When I learned that my girlfriend Judy, better known to the public as “Judge Judy,” would be part of the ceremony naturalizing 146 new citizens, I wanted to be there. How happy I am that I was part of a day that will forever be cherished by those in attendance.
I think the response of one couple spoke for all the new citizens. Peruvian-born Daisy Flores, living in Brooklyn, where the ceremony was held in federal court, had her husband with her. It took her seven years to get to this day, and she expressed to me her good feelings. But it was the words of her husband Nabeel Tariq that I’m sure rang true for all those in the room. “I wanted to shout my joy but
I’m in a courthouse!” he said.
It was a powerful day made even more exciting when Chief Judge Carol Amon announced that her colleague Judge Fred Bloch, sitting beside her, had asked his old friend, Judge Judy Sheindlin (better known as television’s Judge Judy) would be a part of the ceremony. Even though the group represented people from around the world, a huge cheer and wild applause filled the room when those words were uttered! Obviously her fans come from all over the world.
I saw Judy had as big a smile as those waiting to recite the Oath of Allegiance. There’s something thrilling about seeing dozens of people from other nations pledging “to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”
Judy, with a warm smile said, “for me, being part of your lives in a standout moment is great, and to know that you will be happier when you leave than when you came in is terrific for me too.”
She also decided to share her own modern day version of the Gettysburg Address on its 150th anniversary:
Over a million Americans have given their lives in defense of the principles which form the foundation of this great country. The question to be asked is whether their sacrifice created the country envisioned by our forefathers and where do we go from here.
This country is only as strong as our next generation. Unless we demand from ourselves and our children responsible behavior as citizens of their communities, cities, states and the United States, the greatness that is America will be lost. Finger pointing and excuses for irresponsible behavior have created a generation of people who either never heard the words of JFK or choose to redefine them. The words were simple – - “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” The freedoms that we enjoy in this country are unrivaled by any other, and the dreams of our children are limited only by a lack of hard work and dedication.
We must demand the best effort from ourselves and our children. We must demand the best from our government, never forgetting that the government works for us and not the other way around.
We must demand the best from our elected representatives, selecting only the most talented among us to speak for us in the halls of government. If we select mediocrity, we will get what we deserve, and those hundreds of thousands of soldiers will have died for a mediocre country.
A great America means demanding the best from every American who enjoys this wonderful country. Only then, the spirit and sacrifice of those soldiers will be truly honored.
I also loved her words of advice, “leave a mark on the world — you only have one life to live, make it count!”
After Judy left the courtroom I had the chance to talk to and photograph the new citizens. I was enthralled by the mother and baby sitting in the front row. Yetunde from Nigeria sat smiling for hours with her infant Omowunmi. She is a registered nurse who literally glowed with joy and shared with me her pride in taking the Oath of Allegiance.
Also seated in the front row was Harold Housan, a handsome man who told us that he had already completed serving our country in the Army, and the crowd applauded him. I was also impressed by a gentleman, Muhammad Amalik, who proudly wore the American flag given out before the ceremony in his breast pocket. And then there was the beautifully dressed Sharon Carpenter, who was born in Jamaica and now assists seniors in a nursing home. She proudly said to me, “I always wanted to meet Judge Judy and I will teach my children everything she said to me today.”
A wonderful morning, bringing me to tears, ended on a note of hope for me and our country. Everyone I met was bursting with pride at becoming a U.S. citizen.
Muhammad Amalik proudly wore the American flag given out before the ceremony in his breast pocket.
Yetunde from Nigeria, with her infant Omowunmi, literally glowed with joy upon taking the Oath of Allegiance.
Peruvian-born Daisy Flores, with her husband, took seven years to get to this day.