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August is the shoulder of the summer. After August comes September when the rhythm of the school year comes to the fore.  When you think about how many people have kids in school (K through 12 as well as two- or four-year college), it is no wonder that the school year so directly or indirectly influences the annual calendars for so many of us.


This month I am stepping away from the usual topics of financial planning and investment management to talk about a larger idea: patriotism.


Last month I stood with upwards of 7,500 other people in the Los Angeles Convention Center to witness the swearing in of about 3,600 people as US citizens, including one of my sons-in-law. The group to be sworn in included people from over 90 different countries. This was an afternoon ceremony. A group of similar size had been sworn in that morning. I have three daughters. Each married a foreign-born husband.   Two are (now) naturalized US citizens, including the one whose ceremony I attended last month.


The ceremony was short but very impactful.


The swearing in must be done by an officer of the United States government.  In this case, a local Federal magistrate who himself had foreign born parents and who remarked how amazing it was to imagine his parents in the group also with a child who at some future time might preside over a similar ceremony.  The group also included four active duty military people who were asked to come forward and be recognized. There was loud and sustained applause. The group then all rose and held up their right hands.  The judge administered the Oath of Allegiance. The Pledge of Allegiance followed along with a video from President Trump, giving the group a very enthusiastic but non-political welcome as new citizens. A video of Lee Greenwood’s Proud To Be An American concluded the ceremony. 


On the one hand, it was just a ceremony. On the other hand, the 3,600 people in this group are just part of the 750,000 or so people who will become US citizens this year. They want to be US citizens because it means something to be here and not in the 100 or so countries they had come from.


The judge, in his remarks just before administering the Oath of Allegiance, talked about the promise of America - that no matter what the individual’s country or background, America was the promise of unrestricted opportunity.  Why is that important? I tell my students that the purpose of a non-governmental entity (i.e. an individual, a business, or a non-profit organization) is to satisfy a customer demand.


We all play roles as both customers and customer satisfiers. Both the demand and the demand satisfaction create opportunities. It is those opportunities, in turn, that give rise to both the higher standard of the living and the wealth that the world envies. Those people who took the Oath of Allegiance that day were not carping or whining about this problem or that problem because they saw citizenship in America as giving them something, they could not get anywhere else in the whole world.


As I left the convention center, I quietly thanked everyone – new citizens and everyone else – for wanting something more and thereby willing to rise to meet the opportunities they will find before them. Opportunity in America is not a zero-sum game where to have something it must be taken away from someone else. America is additive and is thus ever-expanding. 


It is great to love America, to be a patriot. Unfortunately, patriot is a term the media, the politically correct, and the celebrity cognoscenti like to denigrate.  It is easy to bad mouth something when it costs nothing, but I just watched 3,600 people (not to mention the rest of 750,000 people each year) give up everything in their past to become American citizens.  If America is ever lost, who or what will replace her? An enlightened socialist bureaucracy somewhere?


I went downstairs to ask Riley, my golden retriever, what she thought of America and patriotism. I found her outside sunning herself. 


Nice going Riley.  Enough said. (see picture above)