Questions every citizen should be able to answer

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

What do native-born Americans really know about “my country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty”?

Think they’re smarter than the many immigrants seeking precious citizenship? Even a fifth-grade one?

This past Fourth of July Eve, a record 98 people representing 48 countries became United States citizens during a naturalization ceremony in Southport.

Before being sworn in, each had to take—and pass—a naturalization test, consisting of questions many native-born U.S. citizens wouldn’t even know the answers to, Southport Mayor Sandy Spencer said.

To see if I was worthy, I clicked into a naturalization self-test on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Web site www.uscis.gov, which generated the following questions under its “education & resources” heading.

1). “What special group advises the President?”

If you chose “the Cabinet,” give yourself a point. But if you chose “advisory board, the Supreme Court” and/or “electoral college,” you’d better go to college.

2). “What is the minimum voting age in the United States?”

Hint: “16” is the correct choice only if a question has to do with the legalities of driving in America; “21” if it’s about the legal drinking age. It’s up to bona fide Americans to deduce what’s correct between the two choices that remain—18? Or 35? (C’mon, even I could figure that one out, with a little help from my just-turned-18-year-old daughter.)

Next question: “Where is the White House located?”

The choices are: Camp David, New York City, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

I pondered the possibility of the Whitehouse Hotel in New York City and the White House that is an unincorporated community on the Pamunkey River in Virginia. Fortunately for me and my fellow American test-takers, this wasn’t a trick question.

On and on the questions went, in an endless flow until someone (the person being quizzed, that is) got ticked or tired, whichever came first.

“Who helped the Pilgrims in America?”

Was it (A) Christopher Columbus (B) George Washington (C) Thomas Jefferson (D) Native Americans or (E) John McCain (just kiddin’!)

“What are the colors of our flag?” “What do the stars on our flag mean?” “Who was President during the Civil War?”

“What is the name of the ship that brought the Pilgrims to America?” (Hint: not the Pinta, the Santa Maria, the Bill of Rights or Carnival Cruise Lines, which hadn’t been invented yet.)

“What do we celebrate on the Fourth of July?” (Hint: it’s not hot dogs, apple pie or the freedom to buy and ignite fireworks only in the adjacent state of South Carolina.)

For a few nanoseconds, I got stuck on a question asking what color the stars are on the flag. I had narrowed it down to gold or white. (Well, I knew they weren’t red or blue.)

Anyone who can pass this test deserves a few gold stars to go along with their new citizenship.

Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.