This semester, the Buckley Program held a high school essay contest with the topic: If you could propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, what would it be? The following essay by Naomi Kostman, a junior at Greenwich High, won an Honorable Mention.
The New Face of America
The United States prides itself on being a nation of immigrants. The Statue of Liberty, reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” However, Article II Section 1 of the Constitution states, “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President…” This section has discredited the population of naturalized citizens that has grown by 6.6 million in the past decade as not “American” enough. The 28th Amendment to the Constitution should allow for an individual who is a citizen and is at least 35 years of age to be eligible to run for president regardless of his/her country of birth. It is time for the United States to earn its reputation of giving a voice to all people by allowing those who have worked hard to become citizens the right to represent this country.
The 28th Amendment would allow for anyone who embodies what it truly means to be an American to run for president. Being an American means having the work ethic to fight for a better life and build success from the bottom up, while holding strong moral values of family and community. None of these qualities are attainable only by taking one’s first breath of air within the borders of the United States. One example of this is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Albright was forced to flee her birthplace of Czechoslovakia twice, once from Nazi persecution and later from the rise of communism. Despite the threat of persecution, she was able to attend attended Wellesley College, and Columbia University. She built her success from the bottom up and her hard work payed off as she became the first female secretary of state. There is nothing more American than working toward success despite adversity. Albright came to embrace American values, so much so that she chose to become a citizen of a country whose spirit she embodies. However, as it stands, the Constitution implies that she is not “American” enough to run for president.
Many claim that a President that was born in another country will have conflicting loyalties. This was one of the main concerns of the Framers during the Constitutional Convention, but being born in the United States does not dictate whether or not one is loyal to this country. The Framers even chose to include, “…or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution…” in Article II Section 1. They gave presidential eligibility to any individual who was a citizen at that time because some of the loyal men among them were not born in the United States. A key example of this is Alexander Hamilton. How could they deny such a patriotic figure presidential eligibility after all of the work he had put into building this nation, simply because he had been born on an island in the Caribbean?
In addition, the need for an individual to be a natural-born citizen in order for he/she to be lead this country is debased by the loyalty of immigrants and the disloyalty of certain Americans. According to the Migration Policy Institute, in 2008, 65,000 immigrants were serving in the Armed Forces, making up 5% of all active-duty personnel. There is no greater proof of loyalty to this country than putting one’s very livelihood at risk in order to protect the United States of America. 65,000 individuals volunteer themselves to defend the freedom of those that live in the United States, and there is no doubt about where their loyalties lie.
Amendment 28: Any citizen, either natural-born or naturalized, 35 years of age, who has been a resident in the United States for 14 years shall be eligible to the Office of President.
Birthplace does not define how loyal or “American” an individual is; it is dictated by the actions of said person. If we are to claim that we are a nation of immigrants, we must give those that have worked hard to become citizens of this country the chance to lead it.