ILNews

Hebenstreit: A Special Celebration of Being an American

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

IBA-hebenstreitWhat does the 4th of July mean to you? Regions Bank fireworks, Lake Wawasee, hot dogs, ice cream???? Possibly all of the above. Although holidays are very important in our family, we do not have any long standing traditions for our Nation’s birthday. Rather, it is an opportunity to reflect about being an American.

I feel that I have already won the “Lottery of Life” by being born in the United States rather than any number of other places. All you have to do is watch the evening news to see how much better our system of government works compared to any number of others. As I write this, our national leaders are negotiating to avoid the first ever default by the US on its debt. Hopefully, by the time this column is printed, the problem will be solved. But in any event, it will almost certainly be resolved in a peaceful manner.

In case you were not aware, the US District Court for the Southern District holds ceremonies on about 30 times a year for the purpose of administering the Oath of Citizenship to individuals desiring to become American citizens. Typically, the ceremonies are held in the US Courthouse in the courtroom of the Judge presiding over the ceremony. A number of groups and agencies are asked to participate and be present at the ceremony. The US Attorney‘s Office is present, the Indiana Senators and House members are either present in person or send a representative, and the IndyBar is also asked to participate. Our job is to extend a warm welcome to the new citizens and to present each with a copy of the US Constitution.

I remember reading about the Naturalization Ceremony conducted on July 4th each year. It is held at the former home of President Benjamin Harrison on North Delaware under a tent. I had always heard that Judge Sarah Evans Barker typically draws (or requests) the assignment, and that the ceremony is particularly moving. Having attended many over the years as a representative of the IndyBar, I thought it would be fun to attend the one coinciding with our Nation’s birth. There are not many “perks” to being President (other than being able to write this column every other week for a year) so at the beginning of this year, I asked Caren Chopp to assign me to the one on July 4th. It was not a mistake!

This year the ceremony was actually held on Friday, July 1 which was a glorious day. The grounds of the Harrison home were immaculate, and the air was filled with excitement and anticipation. The black Suburban of the US Marshal’s Office was blocking the driveway. There were a number of law enforcement officers from the Marshal Service as well as the Marion County Sheriff’s office in attendance, presumably since there are no metal detectors at the home. The setting was impressive.

As the ceremony got under way, Judge Barker requested that the country of each new citizen be announced and that all those from that country stand. She enlisted the children in attendance to deliver miniature American flags (donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution) to each new citizen. It was very appropriate because it kept the children engaged and provided a personal recognition to each of the 90 individuals taking the oath that morning. For any of you who have attended these ceremonies, the oath is quite impressive. Having been drafted in the late 1700’s, it uses some antiquated language which only highlights the dignity of the event. It is very moving when each new citizen relinquishes any allegiance to any government, king or potentate (whatever that is) in order to then swears to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. Quite moving!

Being an American is something that we may take for granted. We did not have to work for it. But to observe those new citizens celebrating with their families and children rekindles the patriotic spirit. It is not an easy road to become a naturalized citizen. Those 90 individuals accomplished what we never had to do and it gives new meaning to being an American. I certainly hope they had fun celebrating our Nation’s birthday as US citizens. If you have never represented the IndyBar at one of these ceremonies, I would highly encourage you to take 2 hours out of a work day and experience that patriotic moment first hand. It is well worth your time.•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

ADVERTISEMENT