The concept of free speech is something Ozzie Guillen has been practicing since he came to America from Caracas, Venezuela, at age 16.
And Guillen would be the first to admit his penchant for speaking freely has gotten him into hot water a time or two in his 21-year career as a major-league player, coach and now manager of the World Series champion White Sox.
But on his first day as an American citizen, caught up in the emotion of a ceremony honoring him, his wife, Ibis, and 19-year-old son Oney, Ozzie Guillen was relatively speechless.
After one last late-night cram session with his family at his Near West Side home, Ozzie, Ibis and Oney passed their citizenship tests Friday and were sworn in by Judge Marvin Aspen at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office.
Was it better than winning a World Series?
"Winning the World Series was not my dream, it was my goal," Guillen said. "This is my dream. Do you know how many people die every week trying to be an American? It's not an easy thing to do."
Guillen, who also has homes in Miami and Venezuela, applied for U.S. citizenship in Chicago last July, and came in with his wife and son on Friday to take the citizenship test. Oney, who lives in Chicago year-round and attends North Park College, said the family was up until 1 a.m. Friday morning studying for their tests with the aid of flash cards asking questions like "Who is the governor of your state?"
"I grew up here, so to me, I just feel like I'm giving something back," Oney said.
"But my dad was studying hard. Then on the way here this morning, he reads in the paper he was going to be sworn in as a citizen, like he already had passed. I think then he got a little nervous."
Ozzie Guillen joked afterward that the biggest difference between having a green card and being a U.S. citizen is "now you cannot kick me out of this country." But he did take the process seriously and claimed he now knew more about America than "50 percent of Americans."
"Sure, I was nervous," he said. "Because do you know how many people in the world want that opportunity, to sit there with one (questioner) and have an opportunity, in 10 minutes, to make your dream come true?
"I'm not talking about just Latinos - a lot of people around the world. I know a lot of people failed. A lot lost a lot of money trying. A lot of people lost their lives. I had 10 minutes in there to be what I wanted to be, and a lot of times people leave that room empty. That's what I was nervous about."
One must answer six of the 10 questions correctly to pass, and Ozzie Guillen eventually passed his test with flying colors, going six-for-six, according to USCIS district officer Julian Acevedo. The final four questions weren't asked because they were unnecessary, Acevedo said.
Though Acevedo was not allowed to reveal the questions, Guillen said one was: "Who is the mayor of Chicago?"
Guillen said he replied "Me," before answering correctly.
Friday also marked Guillen's 42nd birthday, and after the swearing-in ceremony, White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert asked the rhetorical question: "What do you get for a guy who has just won the World Series?"
Reifert then presented Guillen with the U.S. flag that flew over U.S. Cellular Field during the first two Series games.
"I think (club Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf) is going to charge me for that," Guillen joked.
Guillen said he's "more popular" in Venezuela these days than President Hugo Chavez, but he doesn't expect his fellow countrymen to react positively to his desire for dual citizenship.
"My e-mail tomorrow will be crazy," Guillen said. "I don't expect anyone from Venezuela to say anything good about it. But my family comes first."