Sunday, May 19, 2002

Refreshing our melting pot

        Race horses aren't really making strides. War Emblem won this year's Kentucky Derby, but Secretariat's 1973 record still stands. And these big animals are alarmingly fragile. The day before this year's Derby, a horse named Buddha was scratched. He was limping, and his trainer said maybe he stepped on a stone. A stone?

        Modern thoroughbreds are descendants of three stallions and about two dozen mares. And the Jockey Club brags about making sure nobody else gets in. These horses are eating better food than their ancestors. They're getting better medical care. Their accommodations are climate controlled and spacious. They have hot and cold running grooms. But they don't seem to be getting ahead, if you get my humanoid drift.

        I think the racing world could use more immigrants.

Three Rivers School

        Of course, I am not the most objective judge of this. I am not a Native American, and my family didn't come here on the Mayflower. My grandfather's mother was pregnant with him when she landed on Ellis Island from Italy. He was born here, an instant American citizen, and his father named him Amerigo. In gratitude.

        Grandpa moved to the Midwest, where he raised eight children and presided over 19 grandchildren. He built affordable houses for soldiers returning from World War II. When he died, he left this country better than he found it.

        That's the way it works.

        Andrew Carnegie, born in Scotland, immigrated here at the age of 13. Eventually, he became a steel tycoon and gave millions of dollars to thousands of libraries and educational institutions. Gloria Estefan was born in Havana, Cuba. Patrick Ewing is from Jamaica, and Sammy Sosa was born in the Dominican Republic. Cesar Pelli, who designed our Aronoff Center, is from Argentina.

        Friday, 41 new possibilities came to the auditorium of Three Rivers Middle School in Cleves. They were from 27 foreign nations, including Japan, Bosnia, Canada, Argentina, India. The late U.S. District Court Judge Carl Rubin brought the first naturalization ceremony to this school in 1987 at the request of librarian Marney Murphy. Since then, the school has hosted a ceremony every three years.

        Emily Woods, 14, Honor Society president, recited the Oath of Allegiance. The eighth-grade band played “America the Beautiful.” The band was so good that — unlike my junior high school band — the director did not have to tell the audience what song they were playing. Students who passed the same naturalization test as the new citizens were allowed to attend the ceremonies and the reception afterward.

        It was a very big day. Huge. For everybody.

        U.S. Magistrate Judge Jack Sherman Jr., who presided, told the new U.S. folks on the wooden chairs, “You are now citizens of the most ethnically diverse country in the history of this earth. Our striking rainbow of people gives us our strength. This new status will benefit you. And you will benefit your country.”

        Afterward, there was a reception. But because this is America and not the Jockey Club, it was difficult to see at a glance who was new.

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