TODAY, I become a U.S. citizen, formally joining the struggle for people to be free to choose their own destiny. America has given me the privilege to participate in the great human experiment that is this nation.

As I take the oath, I will be reminded of President Lincoln's words that it is for us the living to continue the unfinished work that is the perfection of this union.

I was born in Liberia before that nation exploded in a 14-year civil war that killed thousands, displaced millions and left so many children as orphans. Founded by freed American slaves, Liberia was born out of the ideas inscribed in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and government must ensure that their innate rights are protected.

But in the same way our Founding Fathers ignored those values and deprived women and minorities of their rights to partake in their own government, the creators of Liberia's Declaration of Independence ignored their ideas.

For 142 years, women and children's rights were unprotected. Policies bullied those at the bottom.

Ethnic groups were used as scapegoats to marginalize other minorities. Sons of native men who struggled and got educated were denied access to the public-policy arena and had no voice.

In the end, the natural process of remaking that nation from the bottom up created a civil war.

The crisis was just as painful as the events that created America. Today, Liberia does not have a hallowed ground like Gettysburg reminding succeeding generations of the sacrifices of noble men, but in the heart of all Liberians is a gravestone engraved with the dreams of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

For this reason, I dedicate my citizenship to the titans of this great nation. To President Lincoln, I am deeply inspired by his courage to sacrifice his life that this nation would stay united.

To Dr. King and President Kennedy, I will forever remain indebted to you for replanting America's foundation so that I too can find refuge under its roof.

Yantian Poquie, Philadelphia