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A Grin at the End: Are you ready to be a citizen? – Just get six right

carl sampson

I was reading The Wall Street Journal the other day and my heart sank. No, I wasn’t looking at my mutual funds and how they have fallen through the floorboards in the last couple of months. That’s a whole other column.

I was reading the results of a national survey. It found that, in 49 states, less than half of the adults could pass the U.S. Citizenship Test. Only in Vermont did more than half of the respondents – 53% – pass the test.

That’s depressing. To not have a basic understanding of what makes our country tick means many of us are just making it up as we go. Not good.

I know a little about that test. It is made up of 100 questions given to immigrants who apply to become U.S. citizens. During the citizenship interview, they are asked ten of the questions.

For two years, I taught a class in a church basement getting folks ready to take the citizenship test and helping them polish their English skills.

The test is easy. It is a basic history, geography and civics test about the good old United States of America. A typical middle school student should be able to pass it with flying colors.

Just for kicks, let’s take a look at some of the questions and see how well you do. Hopefully, readers of this column are better informed than the general population. (The answers appear below.) You have to get six out of ten answers correct to be eligible to become a U.S. citizen.

1. Name one U.S. territory.

2. Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.

3. During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States?

4. Who was President during World War I?

5. What did Susan B. Anthony do?

6. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.

7. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?

8. Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?

9.  The Federalist Papers supported passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.

10. What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?

These were not the hardest questions. For example, I could have asked you to name your U.S. representative. Or to name two of the Cabinet members. Or which territory I was born in. Just kidding. Only my wife and kids know that answer.

So are you ready to be a U.S. citizen?

Carl Sampson is a freelance editor and writer. He lives in Stayton.






1. Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam.

2. The Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers.

3. Communism.

4 . Woodrow Wilson.

5. Fought for women’s and civil rights.

6. War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War.

7. The Louisiana Territory.

8. World War II.

9. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, “Publius” (look it up).

10. Give up loyalty to other countries, defend the Constitution and laws of the United States, obey the laws of the United States, serve in the U.S. military (if needed), serve (do important work for) the nation (if needed), be loyal to the United States.

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