Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 4, 1976 · Page 35
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 35

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 4, 1976
Page 35
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200 Years Later, Promise Still Remains Hie ininhe remains. '2tM years Inter. The htifie is roireil in tunny loiUfilc.v. finally, in courthouses acriixs J/ic /nii(/. (/»' iicir immigrants in n mil/on »/ immigrants raise l/icir hands tint! pledge allegiance l a neir flap--anil to thegorerninentfortrhirh it stands. By Jules Loh The Auociated Press ''We are a nation of immigrants." John F. Kennedy was fond of reminding his countrymen-and are still. In naturalization ceremonies across the country, many of them more solemn than usual in recent weeks because of the national birthday, aliens from dozens of lands raised their hands and swore "to renounce and abjure all obligations and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state and sovereign. Latortue . . . Jaramillo . . . Vile Szalczer . . . Abrian . . . S h e r f . . . Alexander. . .Salazar.. .McAllister.. .Orenstein... Cheung... Winkler... Each an American now, a new thread in the richest cultural tapestry on earth. "I cried when I got my citizenship," said Helen Alexander, an immigrant from Greece, who became a U.S. citizen June 8 in Atlanta. "I felt so proud. I look at the American flag and said 'I'm an American now.' I was crying. Look, I'm crying now." * THE NATION'S newest citizens, interviewed by Associated Press reporters in cities from coast to coast, offered various specific reasons for renouncing their homelands and choosing America. At bottom, however, they boiled down to the same reason the Mayflower pilgrims gave, the same reason the swarms of 19th century immigrants gave, and it was best summed up by Helen Alexander: "This is the country of hope. We all hope we will have a here. I believe in America." In Chicago, 37-year-old Leslie Szalczer, a glassblower from Hungary, spoke of his hope: "Ever since I was a little boy, my dream was to come to America. It's my home, sweet home. I never thought of going to any other country. I don't want to go back to Budapest and visit. I just want to stay here. I had to give up everything to come here, but it was worth It." Szalczer became an American June 15. In Detroit, Martin Wancjer, 29, took,his oath of citizenship June 6. Like Szalczer, he left a Communist country, Poland. What did he expect of America? "I just want a chance to be free and at peace," Wancjer said. On the day he became an American, he chose what many might deem an odd way to celebrate. "I am going to work," Martin Wancjer said. "That will be a way of saying thank you to my new country and its people." The courtroom naturalization ceremony is fundamentally the same throughout the land. Differences are generally in the extent to which various patriotic organizations participate. At the Federal District Court in Detroit, for instance, Wancjer was one of a group of 13 who received a copy of the Bill of Rights from Manuel Helfman, a representative of the Jewish War Veterans. As he distributed the document, Helfman told the group what he tells each - 'group being sworn in. "This ceremony in many ways is like a marriage ceremony. You have proposed to the country and she has accepted you. Now it is for better or worse. Learn tolerance as one of the first things you owe to your new country and accept the good and the bad with a resolve to do your best to make this a better country." IF THEY EXPECTED that a naturalization ceremony held in the nation's capital during the Bicentennial year might be extraordinarily elaborate, the 78 adults and seven children from 36 nations who" were sworn in in Washington June 8 were not disappointed. They gathered in the sixth floor courtroom of the U.S. Courthouse, a rarely-used room with 50-foot ceilings and white marble statues of the great lawgivers: Hammurabi, Moses, Solon, Justinian. On the bench for this occasion was U.S. District Judge William B. Bryant. Judge Bryant is black. As each new candidate for citizenship entered the room he received a packet-"The flag code," a pamphlet from the Daughters of the American Revolution; a copy of the pledge of allegiance to the flag, the preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, an excerpt from Abraham Lincoln's writings: "Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe . . . let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young . . . sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars." And also a personal letter. "Dear Fellow Citizen: "There are certain unforgettable moments in everyone's life. "Our country stands for different things... but what really makes it unique is the experiment of freedom that was begun here by the earliest settlers -- people who. like you, chose to come to those shores to begin a new life of liberty, challenge and opportunity. "The American experiment goes on. You are now a vital part of it." Signed: Gerald R. Ford. They heard a short talk by the president of the Washington Bar Assn., took their oath, and heard the black judge on the bench say, "I am honored to be the first person to greet you as fellow Americans." "When I took the oath," said Either Jaramillo, a native of Colombia, "I was very excited, very thrilled. I really feel I now belong, truly belong, to a great nation, one that offers opportunity and freedom." »· AFTERWARDS, in the bright sunlight of Washington at the foot of Capitol Hill with the gleaming dome as a backdrop, two friends took snapshots of the new citizen. The emotion of a naturalization ceremony is not lost on the federal judges who administer the oath no matter how often they repeat it. "It's always a very pleasant experience, rather an honor," said Judge Thomas R. McMillan of Chicago. "They are always very attentive, very excited." In Washington, District Judge Charles R. Richey, 52, feels that administering the oath of citizenship "is one of the most important things we do." "I love to do it," he said. "There is a certain importance attached to a formal ceremony which can be made warm and rich and meaningful. And I try to do that." Richey recalls that one, of the first cases he ever tried in federal court as a lawyer involved the deportation of a young man to Italy. The experience impressed upon him the importance of citizenship, he said. "American citizenship is the most precious right in all of the world today. Once this right of American citizenship has been gained, our law provides that it cannot be taken away except upon a showing of the kind of proof that practically is the same as that required to convict a person of a crime. "If we walk across the street to the National Archives we will see the Bill of Rights there on display for all to see. I ask you to contrast that with the tomb of Lenin in Moscow. This is perhaps the most distinguishing feature of our country as compared to others; and particularly the Soviet Union." When Richey addresses new citizens he reminds them of their rights and obligations, but ends with a request. "Help equalize opportunities we have in America," he says, "so everyone has the same chance, the same choice." And he always invites a guest speaker to add his own thoughts. For his next ceremony he has invited a special friend, an American citizen who was born -in Austria: former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg." Goldberg," says Richey, ' 'has the same feeling about this as I do." SO IN COURTHOUSES across the land, week after week, the parade of new citizens continues into its 200th year. In the audience at the recent ceremony in Washington was one who made the journey to America 38 years ago, Harry Rosenthal. The occasion summoned up a lifetime of memories' Rosenthal arrived from Germany in 1938 at age 11 as part of a "Children's transport" financed by American Jews. His parents and sister were left behind; his father soon to go to a concentration camp. In time, Rosenthal raised his hand before a federal judge in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and became an American citizen. "I can't think of any other piece of paper that transforms your life as much as that naturalization certificate," Rosenthal said, "and that includes my marriage certificate. "It confers upon you more than benefits and obligations. It grafts onto your life a history of which you can be proud. It makes you a working member of the noblest experiment in recorded civilization. "Corny as it sounds, it makes you an American and that, simply, is the best thing to ba." The American Dream Came True on July 4,1776 Completion of the Declaration of Independence Is Depicted in 19th Century Engraving July 41776: Breaking the Chains By Don McLeod On the fourth day of July in 1776 the American dream came true. The Declaration of Independence embodied years of struggle and experiment, of testing new ground and building upon it, of proving what other men only pondered. The lessons of government had started with little groups of adventurers and refugees huddled on hostile beaches forming associations to stay alive. The community of man had developed behind log stockades and in the starving times when everyone would have died if the well had not tended the sick, the strong carried the weak, the whole fed the hungry- SELF-MADE AMERICANS learned that freedom to pursue happiness was half the, race. The joy of a free mind came to religious refugees worshiping for the first time without fear. And the natural, God-given right to freedom was embedded in a people who had crossed an ocean to seek it and then found it in a land too big to be bound. On July 4,1776. 200 years ago today and more than a century and a half after the first Englishmen settled in the new world, the Continental Congress drew all these elements of America into a single code for the first time. Detractors would say there was nothing all that new about it. They would argue that its philosophies originated with Locke in England or Voltaire in France or Calvin in Switzerland or Sophocles in ancient Greece. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote it, said he never intended to be original. On the contrary, he was trying to capture the truth which America knew and wanted to share. " an expression of the American mind." Ezra Stiles, the Revolutionary era president of Yale, agreed that it captured "the soul of the continent." ' For in all history these ideas had been tried and proven only in America. And only an American in that day and age could report the result with sure knowledge and hold it up as a beacon to the world.' The Declaration of Independence did not make America free; Americans did that in seven years of bloody war. It did not make them independent; Congress had done that with the adoption of a resolution two days earlier. »· WHAT IT DID WAS declare for all time the right of people to be free, not just Americans but all people. It proclaimed independence, not of just a country but of humanity through the right of people to govern themselves as they wished. The Founding Fathers were revolutionaries, but they were not mindless radicals. They wrote the Declaration of Independence out of "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind." They knew they were forcefully overthrowing a government and believed deeply that "governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes." So, they gave their reasons, and hopefully their justification. They had suffered long, Americans declared, things free men should not have to endure. Although their complaints all sprang from particular offenses, Jefferson couched them in broader terms which still state just what it is Americans will not put up with. His indictment was directed at the king ,as head of state. George III was perhaps not quite the reprehensible character he appears, but in today's reading, as in Jefferson's, he stands for government, the kind which still cannot be tolerated. The king was accused specifically of frustrating self government, justice and the fundamental rights of his American subjects. He had vetoed or obstructed their laws and had refused to pass laws they needed. Furthermore, the British had made it difficult for colonial legislatures to function. When they offended royal authority, they were dissolved and the colonies left for long periods with no representative government. »· AMERICANS WERE WILLING to abide dutifully by properly enacted law, but they resented the stationing of an army in their midst in peace time to enforce laws not of their making. And they were angered by efforts "to render the military independent and superior to the civil power." But the greatest fear was for the fundamental rights of a free people. Britain, they charged, had conspired "to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution." The mother country had been guilty of "cutting off our trade . . . imposing taxes on us without our consent. .. deprivivng us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury." The final stroke was the use of military force against Americans and their rights. "He has plundered our seas," the king was accused, "ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns and destroyed the lives of our .people." If this bit of history sounds dated, the American resentment was no less great from the bombing of Pearl Harbor than the shelling of Falmouth or the burning of Norfolk". These were not just idle irritants. The Americans were convinced they were part of a concerted design for "establishment Sunday Gazette-Mail ThePage Charleston, W.Va. July 4, 1976 Page 3D of an absolute tyranny over these states." "In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms," Jefferson wrote. "Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury." The right to petition within peaceful bounds remains a critical tool of democracy. But of what use is it if no one listens because government is not responsible to the people? This is what our forefathers believed and generations of descendants have defended and expanded the belief. They did not have to accept such mistreatment. And Jefferson explained why. There was a higher authority than king or parliament, he said, "the laws of nature and nature's God." "WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS to be self- evident," the newly United States of America said. "That all men are created equal,'' that no man or clique of men had the right to a greater share than others of the protection and opportunities of God's law. "That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." that any divine right there might be was granted to the people, not to kings, and they were rights which could not be taken away because they were divine. "That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," the fundamentals of human freedom and the just object of human government. "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men," as servants of the common good and felicity, keepers of order and securers of rights, not masters serving their own ends. "Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," government based on the willingness of people to live together in harmony and mutual security. "That whenever any form of govern- ment becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it. and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and or- ganizing'its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." Government, they said, must serve its divine purpose or lose its right to govern. The ultimate right lay with the people as;a gift of Providence. And calling on this "supreme judge of the world." and in the name of "the good people of these colonies," they declared their old government abolished and began anew. "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mrautually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor." As freedom among humankind must always be, this declaration was not complete. It did not explain just who "the people" were who could raise and tumble governments or how they should short of war. Having once justified violent overthrow of .their government, however, the Founding Fathers would move in another decade to assure that it would never be necessary again. They would devise a government which the voters could overturn at the polls instead of on the battlefield, and a Constitution which could be amended by citizens not armies. * THE FOUNDERS "KNEW" that as long as mortals rule the earth there would always be some form of tyranny, but they concluded that the "tyranny" of a majority in a democracy was the best that could be hoped for. And even this could be restrained from abuse by a firm Constitution with a guarantee of the fundamental rights of citizen- 'ship set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson would have liked for his declaration to go further. He had wanted the people of Britain, not just their leaders, to be held accountable for the grief visited upon America. For political reasons this was stricken from his draft, and America still wrestles with the proposition that the people should be answerable for the actions of their government as government is to the people. Jefferson also included a denunciation' of slavery. It was stricken for the sake of a united front of northern and southern colonies. Black Americans would not begin to enjoy their natural rights for 89 more years. »· WOMEN WOULDN'T BE able to participate in the democratic "revolutions" of the ballot box for another 144 years, and youths of 18 old enough to fight for freedom couldn't vote for it for another 195. (Please turn to 4D) 1876 Speech Reflects Past, Looks to Future By Connie Shearer The date- July-4 1876. The place; Kelso Congress of the United Colonies of North America-thai Congress which, although hunted down like criminals by an English army, and whose members stood indicted as rebels and trailers before Ihe courls of England; yet fearing no power tut God, wrote oul and passed Ihrough, by Iheir uniled vote, thai Declaration of American Independence which has been read in your Pelts Grove al Bridgeport W. Va. Jasper Newlon Wilkinson is speaking. "One hundred years ago today there was assembled in Carpenter's Hall in the city of Philadelphia, a body of men, whose noble countenances habitually wore the expression of those engaged in the performance of high public duties, and which stands out in the foreground of history withoul a peer-wilhoul an equal. "Need I tell you thai I refer to the first hearing today, and by virtue of which we hold so high and proud a slation among Ihe Nations of earth...." Jasper Newston Wilkinson was from Bridgeport The house he and his wife, Emma, built in the early 1900s slill stands in the town and is now owned by Dr. Lewis Palmer. Wilkinson was a civil engineer and the counly surveyor of Harrison Counly. His grandfather, George Preston, was a soldier during the Revolutionary War. He ran away from his home in London, to join the American army. His father, who was an esquire in London, lost his property to the English authorities when his son refused to return to England. Wilkinson counted among his friendsMo- seph Johnson of Bridgeport, who served as governor of Virginia. He was the last governor elected by the delegate assembly and the first elected by popular vote. Jasper Newton Wilkinson attended school in Morgantown. It is said that he walked from Bridgeport to his classes in Morgantown. Wilkinson and his wife had five daughters. One of his daughters, Miss Emma Wilkinson, lived in the family home on Newton Street in Bridgeport until her death. WILKINSON DIED in 1933 at the age of 92 As he ·reflected on the past in his speech 100 years ago. he also looked forward to the future. · : He concluded. "Let this generation'but be true to themselves; true to the Constitution as our fathers made it-and true to coming generations--and those who live to see the close of the century on which we are now entering. The Fourth of July 1976-will see the most powerful nation of all times--standing as with one foot upon ' the land and the other upon the sea with that great charter of liberty unfurled to the breeze-and fanning the air of both continents--inviting the downtrodden and oppressed of every clime to come here and be free--" ; The original handwritten speech is owned by Mrs. Betty Price of Charleston. ,

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