Constitution Daily

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All in: Why I became an American

November 16, 2011 by Tom Negovan


Editor's Note: Tom Negovan took the Oath of Citizenship in Chicago on Tuesday.

I'm at the Illinois Capitol in Springfield, covering the dry politics of the fall veto session, just a short stroll from the spot where Barack Obama announced he'd seek the nation's highest office. I covered quite a bit of that race, at the height of it flying to Virginia to interview him on the campaign trail. 

New citizen Tom Negovan at his naturalization ceremony (Photo courtesy of Tom Negovan)

I've sat down with other presidents, covered political conventions, George W. Bush's inauguration, Ronald Reagan's funeral, 9/11's aftermath. I've been all over America,  traveled with U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, been blacked-out (twice) by the Blue Angels. 

It's not lost on me how very fortunate I've been (except for maybe that last one), that not a lot of people get to do all this stuff. It's quite an experience for an immigrant -- to be handed a front-row seat to so many of a country's historic moments, a chance to examine its politics from the inside out.

You can't see all these things without being moved and inspired. I can't cover a war and hide my compassion for the troops, their service, their families. It's like being embedded in America and trying to cover up your growing love for her, your admiration for her people. You can't help but want to be fully vested; all-in.

Then there's my American wife ... but that's another blog. I took the Oath of Citizenship yesterday. I took it seriously.

I had HOURS to think about all this the other day.

"Welcome to the United States of Bureaucracy," a friend messaged me, knowing I was waiting at the Homeland Security office on Congress Parkway in Chicago, about to be late for work.

It was a busy Monday. Everything was backed up,  the waiting area packed with hundreds of people. Waiting. For interviews ... paperwork .. to swear allegiance to America.... It's quite a sight. I was drinking it in, waiting to snap a picture, not daring to; thinking of all those who long to be a part of the country I've called home for a dozen years. So many hold that dream dear their whole lives, yet never make it this far. Look at it that way and you don't mind the wait. 

I was there for my citizenship interview and civics test. After years spent covering U.S. politics, I studied. For questions like "The father of our country was... " You get all these great opportunities to learn about this place, I figure you lose the right to be wrong. At least on your civics test.

They say to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a reporter, everything looks like a story -- and in that room, I was surrounded by them. Great ones, too. People fleeing regimes, oppression, bumping up against me. Families seeking new lives, fresh starts, all around.

I remember how obvious their excitement was. I was excited for them. I hope they find half the America I've been lucky enough to see -- and am now fully a part of.

Emmy-winning journalist Tom Negovan is co-anchor of WGN News at Noon in Chicago. He served formerly as weekend anchor and investigative reporter at CBS-owned KYW-TV in Philadelphia. He previously wrote for Constitution Daily about his father's immigrant journey 

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