As many of us celebrate the Fourth of July in a different fashion than at any time in our lives, it is good to remember what the holiday means - not just the history of American independence, but the ideals articulated 244 years ago that continue to inspire today.
To understand that perspective, you need to look to the naturalized American citizen – the citizen by choice, not birth, who worked patiently and diligently to earn what so many native-born Americans take for granted.
One of those citizens is the LPGA Tour’s own Karen Stupples. Born and raised in Deal, England, a healthy jog from the White Cliffs of Dover, Stupples is the quintessential naturalized American, a personification of what “e pluribus unum” meant to the Founders and means to Americans today.
In her words: “When I first came out to America to college (at Florida State University where I played golf), I immediately felt a sense of home. This was a place that I loved and a place where I really could make my dreams come true, the American dream, really.
“We didn’t have much growing up and this was a great opportunity. I could see life on the LPGA Tour, and I knew that I wanted to be here. So, I met with a couple of my (college) counselors and asked: ‘How can I stay?’ They said, ‘Your only option, because you’re not very good at school, is to be really good at golf.’ I said, ‘Okay, that’s what I need to do.’
“From that point forward, most of my days and much of my amateur golf (in England) was geared around working to make sure that I had a chance to come back to America.
“Amazingly, it worked out,” Stupples said. “I got a professional golfer’s visa to come back and play the LPGA Tour. Then I got a green card. I was helped along the way by players like Meg Mallon and Beth Daniel who stepped up and sponsored me, writing letters of recommendation to the immigration people saying, look, she’s a good sort, she’ll be good for us. I will never forget what they did for me.
“After a while there came a point where my green card was about to expire. I was faced with a choice of reapplying for a renewed green card or applying to become an American citizen. That was a no-brainer for me. I’ve always felt like I belonged here. My son is American. I spent more of my life in America than I have in the UK. This is where I belong.
“But paperwork is not the easiest of things for me and there is a lot of paperwork involved. In the end, it was so worth it. Becoming an American has been one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. When I listen to the national anthem, it always makes me cry because I’m so proud. I’m proud of this great country that has given people the same opportunity it has given me.
“It wasn’t easy. I studied (for the citizenship test) like I’ve never studied before. I’ve never been great at passing tests – in fact I’ve been really pathetic at passing tests – and that was why I was so nervous. Jerry (Foltz) and (my son) Logan and everybody around me were quizzing me with cue cards. People at Golf Channel would help – the crew and my colleagues – everybody who passed my way would throw me a question. They all knew that my test was coming up and they were all incredibly supportive.
“Then, in 2016, the day finally came. I had my test, which, given how prepared I was, didn’t turn out to be as hard as I expected, and I had my interview, which went pretty well.
“The swearing-in ceremony was in Orlando at an immigration facility near the airport. My family was there. Jerry was there. About 100 of us were sworn in at the same time. It was an overwhelming experience to be with people who were just like me. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.
“I don’t think people understand how big a deal it is,” Stupples said. “It’s something you are so proud of. People who are born here are so lucky. Even though the UK is fantastic – don’t get me wrong, I love my family and where I grew up, and I’m still very proud of that side of my life – I’m so proud to be an American.”