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    Inside the Bar: Choosing Citizenship

    Sara Liu became a U.S. citizen on April 15, the day most American tax-payers dread.

    George Brown

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 6, June 2008

    Inside the Bar

    Choosing Citizenship

    On April 15, while most of the rest of us were grumbling about paying taxes for the little we think we receive from our government in return, State Bar employee Sarah Liu raised her hand, swore allegiance, and became a United States citizen.

    by George C. Brown,
    State Bar executive director

    George BrownApril 15 is a day many Americans dread.

    It is the day when, before Internet filing became popular, television stations aired stories about long lines of cars at the post office filled with citizens waiting to mail their tax returns before midnight. It is the day that reporters use to measure how many days and hours of work it takes to pay our taxes. It is the day that citizens who are opposed to taxes use to remind us that we pay too much in taxes, conveniently forgetting or even dismissing what we receive for those taxes. It is a day that some of us would just as soon forget.

    For Sarah Liu, April 15, 2008, is a day she will never forget. It is the day that she thought long and hard about. It is the day for which she studied and tested. It is the day she raised her hand, swore allegiance, and became a citizen of the United States.

    Sarah was born and raised in Nanning, Guangxi Province, China. Nanning is not some backward, rural district from which to escape. Founded more than 1,600 years ago, it is China's "Green City," with a population of more than one million people, actively cultivating economic development yet grounded in environmentally friendly growth. It is also home, with family, friends, and memories.

    Sarah Liu

    Sarah left her job as a middle school math teacher in 1993 to immigrate to the United States with her husband so that he could pursue a graduate degree at U.W.-Madison. After graduation he turned down jobs in China to stay at the U.W., where he is now a senior research scientist. Sarah returned to school after passing an English proficiency test and earned her degree in accounting. She now works in the State Bar accounting office.

    Despite China's massive economic growth, Sarah and her husband stayed in the United States because people are treated more equally here, there are better and more stable job opportunities here, and because there are better opportunities for their son. But to become a U.S. citizen was a hard decision. There was much to give up, but more to gain. If she was to stay, she wanted to be more invested in her new country and in what is happening around the nation and to have a say by being able to vote.

    The citizenship test was not hard. Although Sarah has friends who had to enroll in special schools for six months, she was able to easily pass the civic test by correctly answering all 10 questions randomly chosen from97 questions and the oral interview through self-study. Sarah can quickly rattle off the three branches of government and their powers, how they are constructed and elected or appointed, the executive branch cabinets, the Electoral College, and the main provisions of the Constitution. My bet is that she can put most natural born citizens to shame in this regard.

    A few years ago, a fellow I know said to me when I was griping about something now long forgotten, "You know, George, whenever I start getting down about the government or something else going on in this country, I remember what a friend said to me. `What are you complaining about? You already won the lottery; you were born in America.'"

    We lottery winners need to remember that not everyone wins; many people, like Sarah, have to earn what fell into our laps by chance. We need to remember that we inherited an opportunity and a responsibility for which Sarah had to work. Would that all Americans knew as much about our government and possessed Sarah's perspective to truly understand the importance, value, and relevancy of the legal system in our nation.