September/October 2009 issue

"My Mama's Judge"

by Suzanne Morrison, Branch Librarian, Fargo

Witnessing the joy of new citizens as they take their oath of citizenship, gathering together their new flags and constitutions, and posing for pictures with their families, fills every federal employee with pride.

Judges often state that it is the happiest moment celebrated in their courtrooms. Recently, a friend of mine went through the process and shared with me how different it made her feel. "Now, I drive down the street and think that is MY tree, that is MY fire station, and that is MY flag. I never thought about it before, but I feel as if I really belong now."

These words provoked me to think about making the day even more special. My thoughts centered on the gift bags and watching the new citizens sift through their new booty. It struck me that the court never gives them a gift. I convinced Magistrate Judge Karen Klein to use her READ bookmarks as gifts for new citizens. She stands in front of the American flag holding a book with READ in bold words across the bottom. On the back, we put her name, the date of the ceremony, and a quote about citizenship.

After the next ceremony, I overheard one of the citizens showing the bookmark to her little girl and telling her, "This is mama's judge." Since that time, all the judges in North and South Dakota distribute a READ bookmark with their picture on it after the ceremony. It is a keepsake that sends out the message of reading, makes the new citizens feel special, and allows them to remember the day. I encourage every judge who performs Naturalization Ceremonies to contact your local librarian and request bookmarks. Remember that you are some very special mama's judge.