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June 18, 2013 8:16 am

EDITORIAL: Citizenship ceremony was meaningful and truly inspiring

Written by Tom Lawrence

It once was a place of great shame, a site of a terrible wrong done by the American government to thousands of its loyal citizens.

But on June 11, the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center hosted a truly majestic event. Seven people who love this land were sworn in as American citizens and congratulated for their choice and effort.

The center, located between Powell and Cody just off U.S. 14-A slightly west of Ralston, was a grim, desolate camp from 1942-45, a place where up to 11,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese citizens were held under armed guard for fear they would join with the Empire of Japan against the United States in World War II.

That was a foolish and completely un-American theory. No one rounded up Italian-Americans and German-Americans as we battled against their homelands. Racism was at the heart of this act of national dishonor.

Shirley Ann Higuchi, the chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, spoke eloquently during the ceremony to swear in the seven new American citizens. As she pointed out, her grandparents and her parents, who met at the internment camp, loved this land and overcame the evil done to them there to go on and live successful, happy lives.

That was a note of hope and promise that was completely fitting on this occasion. The seven who stepped forward at the ceremony offered more proof of how our government and political system can, and should, work.

Raquel Caro, Marisela Castro and Jesus Jonathan Davila were Mexican citizens who decided to become American residents. Ceilo Judith Givilancz, formerly of Columbia, Hugo Leonel Najera, who came here from Guatemala, Merry Mayor Glass, originally from The Philippines, and Canadian native David Smith also proudly took the oath from Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Steven Cranfill.

This diverse group of new Americans symbolizes the evolution of the American people. We have always been a land of people from across the world, and the country only will grow stronger as we embrace change.

While the new citizens and their more than 300 million fellow Americans come from widely varying backgrounds, with different languages, beliefs and cultures, the sense that we are all of this nation unites us.

The flags, the Boy Scout color guard, the patriotic songs and the presence of Wyoming icons former Sen. Alan Simpson and his “big brother” Peter Simpson, a Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation board member, added to the stirring sense of patriotism that was on display.

Judge Cranfill and Joyce Boyer, the District Court clerk, deserve high praise for their efforts to make this ceremony happen, and to do it in such a magnificent manner. They have taken what could be an almost-routine, bureaucratic exercise and made it into a meaningful and inspiring ceremony.

That’s a very American thing to do.

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