‘I Am an American Day’ was renamed ‘Citizenship Day’ in 1952
-DID YOU KNOW?-
By Tara Bailey
→ Did you know that on Sept. 17 Americans will celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day? This day commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1787. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services also recognizes people on this day who are taking steps to become a U.S. Citizen. For more than 233 years, the Constitution has served as the supreme law of the land. Together with the Bill of Rights and Amendments, the Constitution works to guarantee citizen’s rights. During the week of Sept. 17th, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services encourage Americans to “reflect on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and what it means to be U.S. Citizens.”
→ Did you know that William Randolph Hearst helped solidify a national holiday to celebrate American citizenship? While immigrants had been celebrating and organizing around the concept since 1917, Hearst, an influential and politically connected businessman and a newspaper publishing tycoon, was the one who swayed Congress in 1939 with his extensive readership from his newspapers to formally enact a new holiday. In 1940, President Harry Truman signed the resolution and Congress designated the third Sunday in May as “I Am an American Day.”
→ Did you know Louisville, Ohio was the first city in the United States to celebrate Citizenship Day in September instead of May? This was thanks to resident Olga T. Weber, who petitioned the leaders of her local municipality to change the date of the “I Am an American” holiday to correspond with the anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution. Weber campaigned to the municipality, the state of Ohio, and traveled to Congress to speak to the House of Representatives to get them all to conform with the Constitution’s anniversary. “I Am an American Day” was renamed federally to Citizenship Day and moved to Sept. 17 in 1952.
Local Crafton resident Ozzy Semih Saka, 36, immigrated from Istanbul, Turkey to Pittsburgh in 2008. Already home to several of his family and friends, Saka knew Pittsburgh would be a great place to call home. He secured his green card, relocated to Pittsburgh, and after five years as a permanent resident he went through the citizenship naturalization process.
“I love Pittsburgh and I love America,” said Saka. “With the freedom of speech, I can be myself. I can vote in elections and my voice will be heard. Going through the naturalization process wasn’t very hard with a green card or very expensive. And within six months after I completed my steps, I was notified I was accepted and to take my oath of allegiance. In 2013, I became an American Citizen.”
As Americans prepare to celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, let’s remember the message in the great American President John F. Kennedy Jr.’s essay “A Nation of Immigrants,” “Every American who ever lived, with the exceptions of one group, was either an immigrant himself or a descendant of immigrants.”
Could you pass a US citizenship test?
→ Did you know people seeking citizenship must pass a test on American history and government in order to become a citizen? There is a list of 100 possible questions that may be asked, of which the applicant will be asked 10. At least six must be answered correctly to pass.
• How many amendments does the Constitution have? (27)
• The House of Representatives has how many voting members? (435)
• Why do some states have more Representatives than other states? (Congressional seats are allocated in proportion to a state’s population)
• If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President? (Secretary of State)
• What are two Cabinet-level positions in the U.S. government? (In addition to the president and vice president the White House Cabinet contains 15 members, including important posts like secretary of state and secretary of the treasury)
• Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now? (John G. Roberts Jr.)
• There were 13 original states. Name three. (Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia)
• The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers. (Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison)
• What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803? (The territory encompassed in the so-called Louisiana Purchase straddled more than 10 contemporary mid-western states and totaled 828,000 square miles. For comparison sake, McKees Rocks is one square mile.)
• Why does the flag have 13 stripes? (In representation of the 13 original colonies)