“Please stand of the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Griffin Owens, a 7-year-old Scott County resident to a group of more than 90 newly naturalized American citizens. “Put your hand beside your heart.”
Owens continued to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the crowd of about 800 people attending the naturalization ceremony on Dec. 11 at the Grand Hall at Historic Union Station in downtown Indianapolis.
“It felt great,” Owens said. “I practice at school a whole bunch.”
He was selected to be part of the program after his mother, Ellen, posted a video of him reading, “What is the Declaration of Independence,” on social media. The video caught the attention of senior U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney. Three months before the naturalization ceremony, McKinney died in September.
“He loves kids,” Owens said of the late judge.
Judge Tim A. Baker, who filled the vacancy left by McKinney’s death, honored the late judge’s wishes of having Owens be part of the ceremony.
During the ceremony, Owens sat next to a staff member of U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly’s office. Owens’ twin brother, Jaxon, and older brother, Cason, were his “bodyguards” for the event, and his father, Chris, who is the Scott County prosecutor, recorded the event. While on stage, Owens’ was poised and confident, but he said he was “very” nervous.
“We were super excited,” Ellen Owens said. “It was super cool.”
Owens’ love for United States History does not stop with the Declaration of Independence or the Pledge of Allegiance. He enjoys reading the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution and the Gettysburg Address.
“I taught myself to read. I read anything. I like history books,” Owens said.
When speaking with the first-grade student at Vienna-Finley Elementary School, his love for American history is apparent. Owens can recite the beginning of the Gettysburg Address, written by his favorite President Abraham Lincoln.
“He’s my favorite because he freed us,” Owens said with excitement.
His second favorite president is George Washington followed by Teddy Roosevelt, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson to round out a top five. He also loves looking at the signatures on the Declaration of Independence.
History is not his only love. Owens loves the 1960s television show, “The Andy Griffith Show.” He can whistle the theme and quote lines from his favorite character, Gomer Pyle.
When Owens grows up, he hopes to become the President of the United States.
“He’s always loved Presidents and an interest in U.S. History,” Ellen Owens said.