a nation engaged

Michelle Kittling-Brewer

Emily Eckles, Dixon, Ill.

"What I want the new president to know about my community is that it is very diverse in race, gender, and sexuality. The United States is home to many different cultures and customs, and not any single group should be singled out for any reason."

This week, WNIJ is participating in a national week of conversation along with other NPR Member stations in an enterprise we call A Nation Engaged.

We’re asking this question:  “What does it mean to you to be an American?”

We asked community members how they feel about this question and what advice they have for the presidential candidates to help them achieve their goals of truly feeling like a part of the country.

Emily Moody, Plainfield, Ill.

Carter Staley/ NPR Illinois

Illinois’ capital city recently hosted its final naturalization ceremony before this year’s election.  Fifty-eight men and women entered Springfield’s old state capitol as citizens of 30 nations.  An hour later, they left as citizens of one. 

WNIJ continues the series, A Nation Engaged, by asking these new citizens two questions:  What does it mean to be an American, and what can the next president do to advance your vision?  

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

What does it mean to be an American? We continue our election year series, A Nation Engaged, by looking at American Identity.

Nearly four decades ago, Sunil Puri left Mumbai, India to visit a relative in the U.S. He showed up in Rockford, Illinois, fresh out of high school and with $150 in his pocket. He’s come a long way since 1979.

“I was a rebel who believed in the promise called America,” says Puri. And not with a solid blessing from his parents. But as the youngest of six sons, he knew the opportunities in his family’s business were limited for him.