Not every Liberty student got to see it, but it would have been
wonderful if they had. One of Liberty Common High School's instructors became America's newest citizen.
I hope Liberty students will always be encouraged to ask their Chilean-born Spanish instructor about her profound moment, the lengthy process; and most of all, her patriotic thoughts leading to the blessed occasion - Friday, August 26th 2016, the day LCHS Spanish instructor
Mrs. Paulina Deitrick
achieved U.S. citizenship.
She will never forget it, and she will always be eager to share her perspectives with anyone who asks. I know because I asked her last Tuesday, and she spent two hours sharing her perspectives with me.
Mrs. Deitrick's enthusiasm and love for America are quite inspiring especially for anyone lucky enough, like I am, to have achieved citizenship through birthright. Her naturalized citizenship was formalized as part of the school's annual Torch Trek event which normally marks the start of Liberty Common High School's academic year.
This year's Torch Trek was extraordinary. We cut the ribbon on the school's latest building expansion, the addition of a new gymnasium - The Colosseum - and a large gathering area resembling an ancient Greek stoa.
Then, along with seventy-three other immigrants, Mrs. Deitrick swore the Oath of Allegiance as it was administered by Larimer County
Judge Tom Lynch
; right there in the new Colosseum. Tears were streaming down many of the new citizens' faces.
If you missed the Naturalization Ceremony which was part of this year's annual LCHS Torch Trek, here's a panoramic photo taken from the front row by LCHS principal Bob Schaffer. The new LCHS Colosseum was a perfect setting for this event - the first event to take place in this wonderful facility. Larimer County
Sheriff Justin Smith (left) delivered keynote remarks, LCHS Spanish instructor
Mrs. Paulina Deitrick (center) took the Oath of Citizenship along with 73 others, as Larimer County
Judge Tom Lynch (right) administered the Oath.
I couldn't see them all from my front-row seat, yet I doubt any wept more than Mrs. Deitrick did. She beamed and sobbed through the whole Oath, right through to the end which is intently effectuated by the solemn words "so help me God."
Our school community ought to forever note that the very first event to ever take place in the LCHS Colosseum was Mrs. Deitrick's citizenship ceremony. We ought to remember why, too.
Citizenship is an embedded virtue at our school. The quality is one of the seven "Foundation Stones" accentuated for students through the sixth grade. It is intended to reinforce the moral character and virtue we expect of all young Americans.
A stated goal of Liberty's character-education strategy
the school defines citizenship as "using the rights and privileges one has as a member of the community to make that community a better place; being socially responsible; obeying the laws and rules; doing one's part for the common good; respecting authority; helping your community by volunteering service." It's an age-appropriate, elementary-level statement of the virtue, one that gets further parsed in Liberty's upper grades.
At the high school, we examine the Foundation-Stone principles associated with Citizenship and frame them within a deeper, more intellectual understanding of informed patriotism - one of the six "Capstone Virtues" internalized through curriculum, student-life activities, and daily affirmation. It is important to note that Liberty flatly rejects the notion of blind patriotism
We recognize legitimate patriotism as "Devotion and dedication to the country - allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and justice for all." It is the same patriotic standard to which Mrs. Deitrick credited her desire to become a U.S. citizen, and to which she has pledged her fervent loyalty.
She poured out her heart as she spoke that night to a packed Colosseum. "Through my husband and our family here, I learned that Americans are hard-working men and women," she explained. "Americans take pride in their jobs and families, and Americans never, ever quit trying to make things better - to be better.
"It is even a part of the vision the Founding Fathers had for their country - the pursuit of happiness was a must. I have pursued happiness all my life and encouraged others to do the same. It seems like a good fit."
As she concluded her remarks, Mrs. Deitrick stoked the crowd's patriotic pride by speaking directly to her students in a manner emblematic of a devoted teacher. "Today, I choose to become an American because I am in love with this nation and its people. I want to become a part of something bigger. I don't want to be just a guest in this, my homeland," she told them.
"I want to be an active participant in every single aspect of this nation, and it is for all these reasons and more, that today, I choose to become a citizen of the United States of America."
In my office last Tuesday, Mrs. Deitrick registered to vote (
and I are Deputy Registrars for Larimer County, and LCHS is an official "Voter-Registration Center"). Last Thursday, Mrs. Deitrick engaged a group of students in a 9th-hour discussion about the essence her Oath of Allegiance.
Mrs. Deitrick's new citizenship is unbowed - active, powerful, and stirring. Her national conversion is thrilling. She has already made us all better Americans.
Her experience elevates our patriotism, and makes us all feel reconnected to the classical happiness associated with natural, human liberty. It is having a galvanizing effect on our students, the faculty, and the entire Liberty community.
We Americans have a perfect Latin phrase for that:
E Pluribus Unum!