Global Cleveland counts upon volunteers to perform a number of services, including welcoming new Americans at citizenship ceremonies in federal court. Recently, one of our board members, Doug Bugie, volunteered in this role. Here are his thoughts on the experience.

By Doug Bugie

There is an old expression ‘”Talk the walk or walk the walk.”  There’s a big difference between the two. After years of serving on the board of Global Cleveland, I learned that difference by attending a naturalization ceremony, my first. This event commemorated the birth of the U.S. Army and Flag Day at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and even though concurrent with the terrible shootings at the Congressional baseball game, spirits were high and focused on the future.

I learned and felt firsthand the immense pride and good fortune to be an American, through the eyes and hearts of the 32 people from 20 nations winning US citizenship. And I do emphasize “winning.”  America remains a country where people dream about living, of breathing free, and the nation wins with legal immigration. I wish we would allow much more of it.

As U.S. Judge Dan Polster observed that day, “Many new citizens have come from places where freedom of thinking, expression and religion and yes, voting, are under pressure or not permitted.”

They come here emboldened to do great things. As Judge Polster said so eloquently, “Leaving one’s home, family, friends, and way of life” to move to a new country “is the ultimate act of entrepreneurship.”

He is so right. Many immigrants continue to invent, invest, create jobs, pay taxes and work so hard as new Americans. A high percentage have gone on to lead Fortune 500 companies.

Who could not be moved by the recent 60 Minutes story on Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish immigrant who founded Chobani Yogurt, and who has made so many of his employees millionaires?  Immigrant contribution is right and necessary for our spiritual and material health.

I was somewhat surprised I did not know anyone at the ceremony, except Judge Polster. I saw no politicians, no civic leaders. The military was there in a big way and I was comforted to see Courtney Ottrix and a couple of newcomers to GC!  In some way, I was relieved too, as the outfit I has on was decidedly rockesque.

This ceremony made me think about the tremendous contributions made by immigrants, not just now, but throughout out American history. I saw with my own eyes how much this moment meant to them, for I could see it in their faces.  We must never let the notion perish that we are indeed the “shining city on a hill.”

New Americans should assimilate into our culture, values and way of life, even as they preserve and enrich us with their own heritage.  The new Americans who spoke that day embraced this point of view.

It swelled my heart with pride to know that we are still the America we know and love. I walked up to Greg Harris, the president of the Rock Hall, and simply said. “It makes you proud and fortunate to be an American, right?”


“Sure does,” he nodded.

It sure does, Greg. It sure does.

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