On February 10, 2007, Senator Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, announced he would run for President of the United States. I decided that day I would become a U.S. citizen. Having lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident since I was nine years old, I never felt the need to become a citizen… until that day.
I never really paid attention to politics until the Bush/Gore election of 2000. I never watched debates, but I did watch the DNC convention the year Obama spoke. I realized that night that this young man, who came out of nowhere, was going to go places. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would happen so quickly.
Flash forward to 2007, and I knew I had to act fast. I mailed out my application for naturalization with payment for processing and waited for my approval letter. A few months later, I received a notification from Homeland Security with a date to appear to take my naturalization exam. You would think I won the lottery! Still excited, but I had to go to Garden City, Long Island, I live in Brooklyn and I had to be there at 7:30AM… but anything for Barack. I had to study 100 questions of which I will be asked 10. Well, I aced the test. Whew, I’m almost there…
The journey continued two weeks later when I received another letter from Homeland Security informing me that on July 17, 2008 I would be sworn in as an American Citizen. The jumping up and down continued. I was hoping that I didn’t have to trek back in Garden City, but if I had to you know I’d be there in a heartbeat. After calling all my friends and family and singing Lee Greenwood’s “Proud To Be An American,” the reality that I could actually vote finally sunk in.
The morning of July 17th-I could never forget that date, because it is my sister’s birthday-I went down to the court with my boyfriend, Javier and waited two hours before the ceremony began. The ceremony went by rather quickly and then we were all asked to stand and recite the Pledge Of Allegiance, and then the tears started to flow. I had done it. I was an American Citizen. I left the court and went to work. As I walked into my office, my entire department stood up and clapped. What a moment that was.
Today, as I walked up to the voting booth for the first time, I have to admit I was a little nervous. As a first time voter, I did not want to make a mistake-any mistakes. I stepped behind the curtain, looked for my candidates’ names, took a deep breath and pulled the lever. That was it. It was one of the most powerful moments of my life not just as an American.. but as a black American.
So here I am today on this historic day a proud American who voted for the first but definitely not the last time.