Sunny Park was born in 1942 in Seoul, South Korea. After coming to the United States in 1967 and gaining full citizenship in 1974, he became a successful businessman and an active member of his community. As a relative newcomer to this country, he is concerned that America’s youth are not being taught, and consequently do not fully appreciate, the principles their forbearers fought for in creating the freest nation on Earth and how fortunate they are to be Americans.
As an immigrant, I have personally learned and benefitted from the tremendous value of this great country, the United States of America. I think it can be summarized as follows:
• Freedom — A people willing to die to maintain it.
• Pioneering spirit — Not just exploration, but an innate ability to lead and show others.
• Work ethic — Celebration in the results of hard work.
• Preservation — Keeping a history of achievements, learning from it, and making improvements for a better future.
During the first few years of my life in the United States, I was focused only on what was best for me. I spent all of my time on myself; I studied only for myself; I earned money only to satisfy myself; I learned those things which were only for the betterment of myself. That was my attitude until I became a citizen of this country.
In order to become a citizen of the United States, I, like every other immigrant seeking citizenship, had to take a test to exhibit an understanding and appreciation for the institutions and principles of this country. I was asked to answer questions regarding my understanding of and willingness to support the duties and responsibilities of being an American. These questions, and the significance they entail, are a standard part of a citizenship application.
For example, I was asked if I would take an oath of allegiance to my new country and if I would fight all enemies of the United States — even if the enemy were my home country. I was tested on my knowledge of the history, government, laws and culture of the United States. It was not a difficult test compared to those I had taken in college, but it was the beginning of a tremendous change in my life.
As I prepared for this test with very limited study materials, I discovered that the answers to the questions were not difficult, but the new, peripheral knowledge I gleaned was very fresh and invigorating to me. It gave me tremendous delight to learn about and see the value of this country, her great resources, and the many reasons that American citizens enjoy such broad freedoms and privileges . . . which were soon to be mine. I was overwhelmed with an appreciation for the pioneers of this country, for their vision of the future, with their sole purpose of making this not only the greatest country in the world, but the greatest place in the world for a person to live. From that moment on, I decided to dedicate my life not just to myself and my family, but to my new country as well.
As I was sworn in as a new citizen, I thought to myself that not only had I gained the blessings of American citizenship, but that America had just gained its most patriotic citizen ever.
Since the day I took my citizenship test, I have continuously thought, “What if every citizen were asked to answer those same questions that I faced, or were asked to periodically study the material I studied? Would that instill in them the sense of dedication and patriotism that it did in me? Would it focus us on our basic national values of hard work and moral correctness?”
I have met so many Americans, fortunate to have been born American, who know history but fail to grasp the advantages, duties and responsibilities of their citizenship. When I see the lack of respect many Americans have for our country and for what she stands, especially the younger generation, I become pessimistic about our future. It makes me quite angry to hear even a few Americans complain about their country while failing to appreciate the many blessings of just being an American.
I’d like to help this country preserve its historic values and prevent them from vanishing completely. I feel very strongly that this must be God’s reason for sending me to America. If we cannot require all citizens to study and understand the value of American citizenship, then perhaps we could at least require high school students to pass a test, similar to the citizenship test I had to take, which might impart in them the same sense of appreciation and patriotism with which I was left. This test should become a requirement for graduation from our high schools. You take the test. See how you do. And be thankful for your great country.
Sample Questions from the U.S. Citizenship Test
1. Why did the Pilgrims come to America?
2. Why did the people in the Colonies revolt against the King of England?
3. What is the basic belief of the Declaration of Independence?
4. What are the first ten Amendments to the United States Constitution called?
5. What are some rights that are guaranteed by the United States Constitution?
6. Why do we have three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial)?
7. How many Senators are there in the United States Senate?
8. Name the thirteen original states.
9. How can Congress override a Presidential veto?
10. Who has the power to declare war?
1. For religious freedom.
2. Because they were required to pay taxes, but had no right of vote.
3. All men created equal.
4. The Bill of Rights.
5. The people are guaranteed the right of freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and the freedom to vote.
6. To balance the power within the government so that one branch of government does not get too powerful. This system is called checks and balances, and it was adopted by our founders to avoid the “King George” experience.
7. 100 Senators: two from each state.
8. Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Rhode Island and Maryland.
9. By a two-thirds majority vote.
10. The Congress
Sunny Park is a member of the Board of Governors of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.
Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature. © Georgia Public Policy Foundation (July 4, 1996) Permission is hereby given to reprint this article, with appropriate credit given.
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The Foundation’s Criminal Justice Initiative pushed the problems to the forefront, proposed practical solutions, brought in leaders from other states to share examples, and created this nonpartisan opportunity. (At the signing of the 2012 Criminal Justice Reform bill.)