Day: February 27th, 2008

Celebrating citizenship

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008 | All Things, Events, Friends

At CL’s invitation, I attended my first ever naturalization ceremony this Wednesday morning. Over 350 people from 55 countries (including one active member of the U.S. Armed Forces) were sworn in as United States citizens at Stuyvesant High School’s Murray Kahn Auditorium. The event was hosted by the Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Emilio T. Gonz├ílez (himself a naturalized citizen); the keynote address was delivered by Taiwanese-born U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, who with her father Dr. James S. C. Chao, was being presented with an Outstanding American by Choice Award. According to the USICS, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, the award is designed to recognize naturalized citizens who have made significant contributions to both their community and their adopted country.

Stuyvesant’s principal Stanley Teitel (at the podium) offered the welcoming remarks.

Naturalization Ceremony

After the Honor Guard from Lt. B.R. Kimlau Chinese Memorial Post 1291 presented the colors, the Stuyvesant Concert Chorus performed a selection of patriotic songs, including “The Star Spangled Banner,” “This is My Country” and “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,” a tune with lyrics drawn from Emma Lazarus‘ 1833 sonnet “The New Colossus,” whose famous lines appear on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Naturalization Ceremony

And then, the moment most had been waiting for: the ceremony itself. As the names of each country represented were read aloud, the range of nations stood as testimony to the richness of America’s variety and its continuing status as a country of immigrants.

The oath was administered solemnly, with the new citizens raising their right hands to repeat the words:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

It was all very moving. When it was done, there were smiles, tears, and cheers as the newly naturalized citizens waved miniature American flags amidst hearty applause and the flashing of cameras. Several leaped out of their chairs and hugged, and many turned to the rear auditorium where their friends and family were seated, beaming broad smiles.

Naturalization Ceremony

Two of Stuy’s own, Chinese immigrants Minglian Pan, 17, and Yimei Hu, 15, (standing far right on stage in the photo above) were naturalized that morning, and after being presented with their certificates of citizenship, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Secretary Chao (not always the most sympathetic of characters) delivered a heartfelt speech as she accepted her award as the first Asian-American woman to be appointed to a presidential cabinet. In it, she related part of the story — just one of hundreds in the room — of how her Taiwanese parents came to make their lives in the United States through struggle and hard work, driven by the desire to better the lot of their children.

Chao’s voice choked with emotion as she dedicated her award to her mother, Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, who passed away last August after a 7-year battle against lymphoma.

Naturalization Ceremony

America’s newest citizens:

Naturalization Ceremony

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