All right people, take out a pen and sheet of paper because today you will take a 10-question quiz about your country and its government.
After you have answered the questions, I'd like you to give this short test to some of your neighbors, friends or co-workers to see how well they do.
1. The Federalist Papers are often injected into public discourse these days. Who wrote the papers, and what pen name was used by the authors when they were published?
2. What year was the Constitution written?
3. How many amendments does the Constitution have, and how many of the amendments are about who can vote?
4. What were the 13 original states?
5. Who becomes president of the United States if both the president and vice president are unable to serve?
6. Who was president during World War I?
7. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
8. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
9. Name the U.S. territories.
10. How many U.S. states border Mexico? How many border Canada?
Pretty simple, huh? Especially for all you patriots who pride yourselves on your knowledge of the Constitution and American history.
But my guess is many of you did not make 100 percent on this quiz, not without looking up some answers on the Internet or in other source material.
What if I told you that thousands upon thousands of immigrants to this country can answer these questions and that many of them know more about U.S. history and government than a lot of native-born citizens?
These questions are from a study guide -- complete with booklet, audio CD and large attractive flash cards -- prepared by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
People from countries all over the world continue to work hard to gain U.S. citizenship despite the anti-immigration sentiment that seems to be sweeping the country, particularly as Congress debates whether to pass the DREAM Act for illegal immigrants brought here as children.
Those seeking naturalization are asked up to 10 questions from the list of 100 in the study guide, and they must answer at least six to pass the civics tests. They also must pass an English speaking and reading test, unless they are exempted under age and permanent residency provisions.
Last year, more than 743,000 people became naturalized citizens, which was down 300,000 from the year before, according to a report by the Office of Immigration Statistics of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security. There had been a spike in applications beginning in 2007 in order to beat a significant fee increase and in response to a push to get eligible immigrants to become citizens.
"Asia has been the leading region of origin of new citizens in most years since 1976," the report said. Prior to the 1970s, Europe was the continent of origin for most naturalized Americans.
In terms of birth countries of new U.S. citizens last year, Mexico led with 111,630 (15 percent), followed by India with 52,889 (7.1 percent), the Philippines with 38,934 (5.2 percent), China with 37,130 (5 percent) and Vietnam with 31,168 (4.2 percent).
Many of the immigrants' stories are inspiring, but I was especially moved last month when the USCIS issued a statement noting that, in fiscal year 2010, citizenship was granted to 11,146 members of the U.S. armed forces at ceremonies in the United States and 22 foreign countries.
"This figure represents the highest number of service members naturalized in any year since 1955," the statement said. "The number is a 6 percent increase from the 10,505 naturalizations in fiscal year 2009 and a significant increase from the 7,865 naturalizations in fiscal year 2008. Since September 2001, USCIS has naturalized nearly 65,000 service men and women, including those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Imagine all those immigrants serving our -- and now their -- country. They've all passed a test more significant than their knowledge of history and government.
By the way, if you had problems answering the questions in the quiz, send me an e-mail. Or just ask an immigrant who is now a naturalized citizen.