Longtime Parkite Lydia Kluge is now a full-fledged U.S. citizen
Nonprofit board member felt time was right
After witnessing the violence in Charlottesville between white supremacist groups and their opponents and hearing the divided rhetoric between the Republican and Democratic parties, some people may feel the United States is falling apart at the seams.
England-born Lydia Kluge, who has lived in Park City since 2005, isn’t one of those people. Kluge, who has served on the board of several local nonprofits such as Girls on the Run and Park City Women’s Golf Association, became an official U.S. citizen in a short ceremony on Aug. 9, in the United States District Court of Utah in Salt Lake City.
The ceremony ended with Kluge and other immigrants taking the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
Becoming a U.S. citizen has been something Kluge has thought about for the past 12 years.
“I came over here as a ski instructor at Deer Valley,” Kluge told The Park Record. “I had every intention of going back to England, but I met my husband, Jeff, here.”
Kluge, who was able to live and work in the United State due to the Permanent Residence Program, which is known as the Green Card program, decided it was time to move forward with citizenship.
“You get approved for a [Green Card] for one or two years, and then [the government] will check back in with you to check your status,” she said. “For example, if you go through for marriage, like I did, they check to see if you’re still in a solid relationship. If so, they’ll grant you another 10 years.”
Still, Kluge, who was raised in Surrey, a county just south of London, felt in limbo.
“I had enjoyed a certain assimilation about being in the States, but I didn’t feel like I was fully a member of the society and community,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I could participate in important things, like voting.
“The more time I spent here, the more time I felt connected to the United States. I began wanting to feel like this is my home. Plus, my husband and I want to have children, and I think this is important for me to really become an American citizen.”
Kluge applied for citizenship last year in October.
Shortly afterward, she received a study guide.
“It was a large book filled with civic questions,” she said. “There were 100 questions to go through and learn, and you will get asked 10 at random when you are tested during the process.”
In 10 short months, Kluge learned about the three branches of government — Executive, Legislative and Judicial — and how the national and state Senates and Houses of Representatives work.
“I also learned about the geography and history of the United States,” she said.
Kluge passed her test, and was invited to a naturalization ceremony.
During the ceremony, Chief Magistrate Judge Paul Warner gave a short speech.
“He shared his belief that America is the greatest country in the world, not in a boastful, arrogant or proud way, but in a thankful, humble way,” Kluge said.
Warner also spoke about respecting the flag.
“He told the new citizens that while it had now been made legal to burn the flag in protest, he believes it is morally wrong,” Kluge said. “He shared of his extensive military service and how the flag represents Freedom, and the tens of thousands of men and women who fought for it.”
As Warner wound down his talk, he shared a personal experience about returning home from a church mission to the Philippines.
“The [U.S.] immigration official at the airport asked him how long he’d been away and when he said over two years, [the officer] told him, ‘Welcome Home,’“ Kluge said. “Then the magistrate told all of us new citizens that America is now our home. And said ‘Welcome Home.’“
The ceremony also included a presentation from the Daughters of the American Revolution, a lineage-based non-profit group of women who are directly descended from a person involved in the United States’ struggle for independence.
The organization works to promote historic preservation, education, and patriotism.
“We were told that we were all fortunate for the country that we live in today because of those who came before us helped created it with liberties and freedoms,” Kluge said.
The speaker also reminded Kluge and the group not only of the rights they can enjoy, but also of the responsibilities they have.
“She told us to be active citizens, to learn about the issues their communities face, and to vote,” Kluge said. “She shared that America has a history of service. That the American people volunteer more than any other nation, and Utah more than any other state, and encouraged the new citizens to do their part. She united the group by sharing a Helen Keller quote “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
After those talks, some of the people who were becoming citizens were able to speak, as well, Kluge said.
“There were 49 of us, and, of course, we didn’t hear from everyone,” she said. “But it was interesting because the group was so diverse. There were people from Argentina, India, Philippines, Canada and France, Poland and Africa.”
Throughout the naturalization process, Kluge was struck by three recurring themes:
“I learned how important it is for us to remember to be grateful for and appreciate our rights and freedoms,” she said. “We heard from some people who lived under very controlling governments, including places where women did not have equal rights.”
Kluge learned the importance of getting involved with her new country.
“It is important to help shape the kind of country and future you want for yourself and your family,” she said. “One way to do that is vote. I learned that 50 percent of eligible voters don’t vote, and I couldn’t help but think why. I feel that if that right was fought for, you should appreciate it.”
Diversity is the thing Kluge likes most about the United States.
“The United States is really a melting pot,” she said. “As new citizens of the United States, we are told to embrace the culture and customs, but also bring in our own unique culture and customs to add to the rich tapestry of diversity that the United States was founded on.”
Upon further reflection, Kluge said she believes there are misconceptions about immigrants.
“I think many people think immigrants are people who try to climb over walls or dig tunnels to get into America,” she said. “I think some people think immigrants are uneducated.”
During the naturalization ceremony, Kluge met doctors, lawyers, and teachers.
“These were all trained and skilled people who wanted to become U.S. citizens,” she said.
Kluge said she also feels some people think immigrants are looking for handouts.
“I do know there are some people who come from hardships, but they aren’t coming here to take stuff from this country,” she said. “I think they are coming to give of themselves and show some of their culture.
Kluge said she made more money as a teacher in England than she made in the United States.
“I have degrees in economics and math and post-graduate degree in teaching,” she said. “I wanted to take a break from teaching in a classroom and teach skiing. So, I taught a couple of seasons at Deer Valley and then taught classes at the Colby School, when it was running.”
Still, making the decision to leave England was difficult.
“I didn’t want to feel like a traitor,” she said. “Thankfully, these days, it’s better because you can be dual citizens.
“During the oath, however, you have to declare that you will denounce any affiliation with another country. I know that I would have to choose the United States over England if it came down to it. I realized then that this is my chosen country.”
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