A Courtroom Where Everyone Wins

By James Hennes, Project Manager China Intern
Hello everyone, my name is James Hennes, and this is my first blog entry for The International Center! I work in the China Project Office with Project Manager Lei Wang. Lately, we’ve primarily been working on collaborative and consulting type projects for various Indianapolis clients in the higher education and the healthcare industries. We have worked on expanding our clients’ presence in China and forging stronger ties between Chinese organizations and Indiana.

Last week, I also participated in my first naturalization ceremony. The International Center participates regularly in naturalization ceremonies at the nearby Birch Bayh Federal Courthouse. We give out a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol building to the eldest new citizen in attendance. It was my honor to give out the award last week.


I was really nervous about having to give the speech at first, but as I walked closer to the courthouse the more excited I was about participating in the ceremony. I have always loved going into the Federal Courthouse, just to gaze upon the 19th century architecture, decorative ceilings, and marble pillars. This helped me put my mind at ease as I walked through the doors

As I passed through security and finally walked into the courtroom, I started to get nervous again, especially when I could not find my seat. Finally, I met the clerk, who told me everything I needed to know, so I could finally relax. When I watched the naturalization ceremony, I was in awe of how many countries were represented. This time there were over 38 countries represented by 75 individuals. I have traveled and lived in many countries in my lifetime, and I am always amazed about the diversity of the United States. In many countries, citizenship is defined by jus sanguinis, or the right of citizenship by bloodline (i.e. your parents are citizens). The U.S. is unique in that it’s one of the few countries that does not define citizenship by blood, ethnicity, or culture; it welcomes anyone. While I know that might sound cliché, after living in less tolerant parts of the world, I really appreciate how special the U.S. is in its ability to welcome and accommodate such a diverse group of new citizens.

After the judge walked in, the courtroom was electric with energy from these new diverse citizens. Everyone stood up and took the oath of citizenship before the judge. Then, my name was called and I walked to the front of the courtroom, responding “Thank you, your honor.” I made my speech and presented the flag to the eldest citizen, who was a man from India. He was very happy to receive the flag and thanked me (also for pronouncing his name right). Afterwards, the judge invited everyone’s family up to the front to take pictures, and the courtroom broke out in celebration. The judge remarked that naturalization was the best part of his job, because when he adjourns this session, everyone in the court room wins.