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Newcomers Know More About America than Americans


About a million people every year become so-called “naturalized” citizens of the United States. They've lived here lawfully for at least five years, know enough English to converse with an examiner, are prepared to swear allegiance to the United States…

…AND they have studied U.S. history and constitutional principles to the point that they can pass a written test.

Now, the Walker & Company publishing house has put out a little paperback book that asks an interesting question to native-born Americans: can they pass their country’s own citizenship test?

The book is called The Great American Citizenship Quiz. Of course, you don't really have to be a great American to take it!

While immigrant citizens-to-be know their state's capital, for sure, and their two United States senators -- and probably a lot more, like the state motto and flag -- many lifelong Americans couldn't even guess. Ask them what ship the early settlers called the Pilgrims took, and you're liable to get a blank stare.

People studying to be naturalized citizens know there are nine U.S. Supreme Court justices, know that the Electoral College has no campus, and even know who will become president if both the president and vice president should die. You wouldn't want to bet much money that the average citizen car mechanic or pro athlete or secretary -- or journalist, for that matter -- would know all those things.

Residents who are about to become naturalized citizens know and appreciate the rights that American citizens enjoy -- to meet, to vote, to worship, to speak openly. They'll even have the right to forget almost everything they learned about the United States -- after they pass their citizenship tests.


Here are some facts from The Great American Citizenship Quiz that prospective citizens soon learn when they study for their tests:

William Howard Taft is unique among U.S. political figures because, at different times during his career, he served as the nation’s president and as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
The minimum voting age in the United States is 18.
John D. Rockefeller donated the land in New York City where the United Nations headquarters was built. It is considered international territory. The United States is said to have a republican form of government in which supreme power rests with citizens who vote.

The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which spelled out many of the privileges of U.S. citizenship, are called the Bill of Rights.

The U.S. Constitution was written in 1787.

President Bill Clinton appointed the nation's first female Secretary of State (Madeleine Albright) and first female Attorney General (Janet Reno). The very first female cabinet officer was Frances Perkins, whom President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Secretary of Labor.

Franklin Roosevelt was the first president to be elected more than twice. Mr. Roosevelt was elected four times and died in office in 1945. In 1951, the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution established a two-term limit.

A president's term in office is four years; a U.S. senator's is six years; a U.S. representative's is two.

The composition of the U.S House of Representatives varies according to population. Currently the aim is to have one U.S. representative per 600,000 people. As a result, seven small or sparsely populated states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming) have only one representative each. But, like every state, they have two United States senators. Three U.S. territories (Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa) have non-voting delegates in the House of Representatives, as does the District of Columbia (as the capital city of Washington is known). The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has a resident commissioner who also serves in the House without a vote.

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