U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander today addressed the Senate to praise the release of the first-ever Citizen’s Almanac by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Diversity is a great strength of the USA, but it is not our greatest strength,” Alexander added. “Our greatest strength is that we’ve been able to take all of this diversity, and mold it into one country – not because of race, not because of ethnicity, but because of belief in a few principles and our common language. We’re able to say we’re proud of where we came from, but we’re even prouder to be Americans. The Citizen’s Almanac is both a wonderful symbol of this commitment, and a useful tool for fulfilling it.”
Alexander met last week with the Nashville School board and Superintendent Pedro Garcia. “It was made clear to me that we still have work to do within our school systems to ensure a common language,” he said. “About 30 percent of all the students in Tennessee who have limited English proficiency happen to be in the Nashville school district. Many of those students who are not now American citizens want to make sure they learn enough U.S. history in middle and high school so that they can pass the citizenship test and become Americans when they graduate from high school.”
The 100-page almanac is a collection of “fundamental documents, symbols and anthems of the United States.” It follows a pilot naturalization test, instituted in January, that focuses more on the principles and history that unite Americans, and less on trivia such as the old test’s question on the form number of a government immigration document. The Almanac was reviewed by experts and endorsed by the National Endowment for the Humanities. A copy will be given to each of the nearly 650,000 new citizens America welcomes every year. “This book ought to be in every Senate office; it will be in every home of every new citizen, and it would be a good document to have in every school in America,” Alexander said.
“USCIS deserves great credit for focusing on the fundamental principles, documents, and stories that bind us together as Americans,” Alexander also said. “One powerful example is the Oath of Allegiance to which all new citizens swear and which dates back to May 12, 1778, when General George Washington and his general officers at Valley Forge formally renounced allegiance to King George of England and swore their allegiance to the United States of America.”
Alexander is a former U.S. Secretary of Education.