Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

July 22, 2011

Citizen USA

Filed under: Family — Janice @ 11:43 pm

Mark and I just watched an HBO Documentary called Citizen USA. It is a short documentary about some of the one million foreigners who become naturalized US citizens each year in our country. It was a VERY moving documentary and I wish every citizen of Arizona and Georgia (… well, and every other state in the union) would watch it.

We take so much for granted in the United States. I remember a joke I read in Reader’s Digest one time where some women were discussing what modern day convenience they wouldn’t want to do without. The microwave? The dishwasher? They were stating their preferences and the 90-year-old grandmother said, “Not me, I’ll take running water every time.” We have so many blessing each and every day, we look right past them. The people in the movie — from Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, and on and on– loved having 911 to call in case of emergency, the fact that when a school bus stops, the cars in front and behind stop and her children are safe, and being able to walk around the block with a stroller without fear of being kidnapped. A Muslim in Michigan expressed joy that there were churches and mosques side-by-side in Michigan and that the country was founded on religious tolerance.

The movie was made by filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic former Speaker of the House, so I am sure that many people will view it as a liberal mouthpiece without even seeing it, but I would challenge them to find the things they don’t agree with within the movie. Hard to disagree with one immigrant after another praising America as the country where you can come with nothing and work your way up, get an education and a job and a home.

So all that made me think of my brother-in-law. Today is his birthday and he is a naturalized citizen and I’m very happy that he chose the United States to be his home. Coming from Holland, he didn’t face persecution or have to go to the river for his water. He came from a very modern society and was very educated and came to the U.S. to pursue more education. But Theo was looking for freedom in his own way. He has said that it seemed to him that in Holland, people were happy with the status quo and there wasn’t the drive to succeed and achieve. He had that drive and it was not nourished there. He came to the United States to pursue that dream here and has succeeded in so many way.

[I may be playing fast and loose with statistics and quotes and feelings, and I invite Theo or Mackie to chime in in the comments and correct anything I remember wrong from our 30 years as family.]

Theo spoke English and several other languages when he came to the United States on a student visa in 1977. Almost like the movie The Terminal, Theo spent a night at the DFW airport when he first arrived, unsure of how he was supposed to get to town or where he would go when he got there. He did quickly learn and adapt and he met my sister in 1981 and they married in 1982. While he was a student, he was also working as a diamond dealer and learning the trade. He began his own business (Anschar Diamonds) and has been growing that business for almost 30 years. There have been many times when I discover that someone I know knows Theo because they bought jewelry from him or someone in their family bought their engagement ring from him. His network is amazing. Not only do his customers come back again and again, they send their co-workers and family and friends. I certainly have.

Side note… ¬†When Mark and I were talking about engagement rings, Mark had a friend that owned a jewelry store. Mark consulted me and said, “Do I have to buy your ring from Theo or can I buy it from my friend?” I thought it over and told him that I knew that for the rest of our marriage people would notice my beautiful rings and ask if I got them from my brother-in-law. I didn’t want to have to explain why we might not have. I’m so glad we bought our rings from Theo. He got us exactly what we wanted (and I wish I had a great close-up to show you how perfect they are).

Theo became a U.S. citizen in 1997 in Dallas after 20 years in the US. I wish I had been there for his swearing in ceremony. Happy birthday Theo. I’m so glad you are family and the best father to my two nephews and husband to my sister. Thank you for all you’ve done for our family.


  1. I was there the day Theo became a citizen, along with so many family and friends who were there to wish him well. It was a very moving ceremony to see people from all over the world become citizens of the USA. And I might add that it is not an easy process, and these people had worked hard for many years to earn their citizenship.

    Comment by Pat — July 25, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

  2. I enjoyed reading about myself.
    I remember that I “overprepared” for the quiz on knowledge about the USA.
    The interviewer started with “Who was the first —” and I already interrupted him with “George Washington”. He started laughing because I answered the questions before he had time to ask them.
    You are such a good writer.
    Thank you for your kind words.

    Comment by Theo Schaars — July 29, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

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