On Friday, I had an Oath Ceremony for U.S. Citizenship. When I first arrived at the place, the security officers told me "Congratulations!" with a happy smile on their faces. If you haven't seen other parts of the world, you may not be able to see the importance of this attitude. One would have heard something like this "We cannot even feed ourselves, one more new citizen. Darn it!" but instead, it was "Congratulations!". They were not the only ones who congratulated me during my Oath Ceremony, but other officials there too. I don't think there are many countries that accept new citizens with this welcoming and sincere attitude. The lady who handed out our Citizenship Certificate told us something really interesting "Unlike many of us who take this freedom for granted, you actually worked to earn it. So you may be more American than many Americans today". I didn't have rough times like many others did in my past who came here to find freedom and peace from close regions to Turkey but I am old enough to understand to importance of freedom of expression and freedom of worship (and the other amendments in the bill of rights) which are one of the most important items in the constitutions this country is built on.
One other thing she mentioned also was quite interesting to me as well "There is no any other Country in which you truly become one of them. For example, in Germany you can become a German citizen but you cannot become German. Here in USA, once you become a citizen you become a true American.". And while she was saying this, one could see the proud she had at that moment, the proud of accepting anyone no matter what religion, culture or race they have.
One may say, but they cherry pick people, they checked your background, they tested you, etc. I don't think what they are looking for is a person who can be eligable for U.S. citizen, but a person who is eligible to be a Human. And this process is performed for the sake of other people in the whole country. You have to have a good moral character not to be a citizen of any country, but to be a human-being. Being modest and honest human is our life-long test not until we become a citizen.
Congratulating didn't finish at the end of the Oath Ceremony. When I came back to work, my co-workers congratulated me as well. That moment you feel the state of belonging to something. You may get your citizenship certificate and you may say "Now what?!" but once you see people around you cheering for you, then you feel like "OK, now I feel belonging..."
And the last words during the Oath Ceremony was "We don't want you to get rid of your roots, culture, religion. Instead, we want them with you in our society. This is what America is. We are very diverse people and we love it." Well, I don't think I need to explain the beauty of these words.
If you haven't understood the importance and meaning of peace, intercultural and interfaith dialogue, then I don't really expect you to understand what I've explained above. But my dream is to see people , from different races, religions and cultures, cheer a simple dinner together without any grudge and hatred and I think America has been doing a good job about this so far and has the potential to be even better.