New U.S. citizens heard a message transcending time

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Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

Four summers ago, before Detroit’s baseball team began its freefall into the Major League abyss, I was invited to step onto the field at Comerica Park to cover something far more important than a game between the Tigers and the Miami Marlins.

On a sun-drenched June day in 2016, the typical pre-game festivities at Comerica gave way to a patriotic party for some 60 men and women who took the field for a naturalization ceremony that put an exclamation point on their journeys to become United States citizens.

For many in the group, it was a long and perilous trek, a point driven home by U.S. District Judge David Lawson, who performed the naturalization ceremony in front of more than 30,000 Tiger fans.

“Many of us who are born in the United States tend to take the privilege of citizenship for granted,” Judge Lawson said in his opening remarks. “You are here today because you have a love for this country – so much so that you have traveled and studied and sacrificed to become an American, to enrich our land with your contributions of culture and tradition in the spirit of renewal.

“And I congratulate you for this,” said Lawson.

“But citizenship is not easy. It requires participation, tolerance, generosity, and devotion,” he added. “It requires sacrifice that only can be inspired by the beliefs we have in our shared values. Citizenship is not a spectator sport; it requires action. Otherwise, we will lose the gifts that our predecessors passed down to us through great and dear sacrifice.”

That message, Lawson told the group of new citizens, should resonate especially come election time.

“Today all of you taking the oath of allegiance are becoming United States citizens, committed to our government, our system of laws and justice, and our democratic traditions and ideals,” Lawson told those lined up along the Tiger infield. “And so as citizens, you have both the privilege and the obligation to ensure that our leadership acts in the interest of all of us.

“And that means that you must take a hand in choosing our leaders, by voting in every election,” Lawson said. “Voting – by every American – is vital to the health of our democracy. For if you don’t vote, you will get the leaders you deserve.”

It was a statement – a warning – he underscored a few minutes later when presenting each individual with their citizenship certificate during a decidedly less formal ceremony held underneath the right field stands at Comerica, urging “each and every one of you to register to vote as soon as possible” for the upcoming elections.

Now, less than five months from a presidential election that may portend a political sea change or another shipwreck, Judge Lawson’s words should ring in the ears of all those eligible and able to vote. As the last four excruciating years have taught us, sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option, whatever your political bent.




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