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An American story

So you want to be a U.S. citizen? It takes studying up on history, English and civics to cement this milestone of the American dream — and don’t forget to learn the Pledge of Allegiance
Sunday, October 12, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:10 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

I pledge allegiance to the flag ...

Families and friends walk up the imposing steps toward the revolving doors of the 10-story courthouse in downtown Kansas City. Many groups pause for photos on the steps in the unseasonably cold breeze that makes the flags snap and crackle.

Children trot cheerfully behind their parents while clutching American flags. After walking into the cavernous courthouse, Norma Sanchez and her mother, Alma Estrada, join the line at the security checkpoint. Balconies and security cameras overlook the echoing chamber.

The people are directed to a room with wooden pews that are reminiscent of a church without preaching or hymnals. A baby’s cry fills the room, with the cheerful music of a toy giving an odd contrast to the tearful howling. Seated and waiting for the ceremony to start, Sanchez looks down at the program with the Pledge of Allegiance printed on the back.

“I don’t know the Pledge of Allegiance. We didn’t have to learn that,” the 29-year-old Columbia resident said amid a whisper of accents and foreign languages. Two hundred people gathered this day to witness a milestone in each candidates’ life: becoming an American citizen.

...Of the United States of America...


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