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Taking Liberties With Patriotism

June 11, 1986

Chief U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real refuses to shill for network television, and thereby demonstrates that he is a man with well-ordered priorities. Real knows that patriotism need not be worn on the lapel, but can be practiced just as earnestly in quiet, private ways. Citizenship does not have to be validated by appearing on prime time--with the producer picking the set.

Real and his colleagues did the right thing in refusing producer David Wolper's demand that new Los Angeles-area citizens be sworn in on television at Dodger Stadium or the Los Angeles Coliseum on July 3. Wolper said that it had to be in one of those locations or the Los Angeles ceremony would not be carried as part of Wolper's $30-million "Liberty Weekend" ABC Television special celebrating the centennial rededication of the Statue of Liberty. New citizens in five cities will be sworn in by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger via satellite from New York's Liberty Island.

A mass naturalization ceremony was held once at the Coliseum and was a disaster, Real recalled. He added that the people were uncomfortable and that it turned into a mass political rally. When Wolper called, Real recounted, "We said we would do it in the Music Center. That wasn't good enough for Wolper. He wanted the Coliseum, Dodger Stadium or nothing." Wolper will go to San Francisco for his live and direct oath-taking.

There is nothing wrong with a patriotic extravaganza so long as the show does not overwhelm the event itself. Alas, the 17 1/2-hour-long Wolperization of Liberty and this Fourth of July seems destined to do just that.

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