We at HE Travel are proud of our 40-year tradition of helping travelers from one corner of the world to explore the rich heritage and beauty of other regions, then return home again.
But sometimes for a wide variety of personal reasons, individuals choose to visit another country and then stay there to contribute to a new society. In the United States, immigration has been a heated political topic throughout most of our nation’s history, even though the large majority of Americans are descended from immigrants. I’ll leave the political discussions about immigration policy to others, but a friend reminded me last week that ultimately immigration decisions are very personal, one person at a time.
Cris Martinez was born in Argentina and grew up in Cali, Colombia. Because his grandfather was American, he was able to move to the United States to attend college and get a Green Card, allowing long-term residency. Cris now lives in Key West and last week obtained his citizenship at a special ceremony in Miami.
For each citizenship ceremony, one person is invited to give a short speech on behalf of those becoming American citizens that day. Cris’s speech reminded me of what my country means to people around the world when we are successful in achieving our ideals as a nation, and I would like to share it with you.
Speech at Citizenship Ceremony by Cristian Martinez in Miami, September 2014
Good morning everyone!
How are you doing today?
It’s so wonderful to share this special day with all of you!
My name is Cristian Andres. I’m originally from Santiago de Cali, Colombia and I feel so honored to be given the opportunity to speak to you today.
To me being able to be in this country and subsequently becoming a citizen has not just been a wonderful opportunity but a blessing sent by God. However I have faced tough moments throughout this process like most of you have.
Leaving everything behind and starting from scratch has not been easy. My American journey started on September 29th 2008. As soon as I arrived everything was very overwhelming and hard to understand, but a big part of that was the language difference.
My first six months here were very challenging, especially since I was located in Nashville Tennessee, where cultural differences and weather changes made things harder.
At the beginning, the anxiety, loneliness and frustration made me fall into a deep depression which affected my sense of time, and hurt my appetite. All I could do was to eat Frosted Flakes and go to bed! I felt drained, heavy and hopeless. That lasted about three months.
Soon after, I met with a doctor who prescribed some medicine for me, and thank God! things got better. From that point on I started going to a local church where I was embraced by the members’ spiritual and emotional support. I found inner peace, and one good thing led to another.
Very soon I found a great job and I started preparing for college, and this really improved my English. Things got better and better as the days went along. As my confidence grew, I was able to look at things in a more positive way.
In the Summer of 2012 I decided to take an adventure and move down to the Sunshine State. I currently live in Key West Florida where people appreciate me, and I appreciate them as well. The heart and soul of this loving community makes me feel like I’m home, even though almost everybody down there has also come from elsewhere.
Something very significant that I have learned is that our faith, positive attitude and imagination can lead us to reach out for the impossible, for bigger things, and for unimaginable places, no matter how grey the day has turned. A true fact is that the sun will come out soon and it will radiate the light of truth, so stay calm and keep believing!
Each of us walked into this country in a unique way. We have come from different backgrounds, different nationalities and so on, but today we are walking as equals.
Today we are becoming part of one nation to love, to educate, and to inspire. Now it is our turn to give back to this wonderful society that has opened its arms to welcome all of us!
Part of our new responsibility is to keep working hard every day, not just for our own dreams, but for our neighbors’ dreams.
We will be successful members of this community by keeping the American dream alive and by honoring all of those who have come before us. This includes those true believers who crossed the Atlantic to create a new world, and the millions of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island.
Now WE are being adopted by this big family.
Last but not least, let’s not doubt ourselves because there is so much we can all contribute to the next chapter in the American story.
God Bless You All.