The annual ceremony marking one of the nation’s most famous speeches, the Gettysburg Address, provided the backdrop Monday for the naturalization ceremony of 16 new citizens.
One of the group — a man from Guinea — wore a coat designed to look like an American flag draped around his shoulders.
Issaka Diallo, who lives in Harrisburg, has been in the U.S. for a decade.
“I am very happy to have found this ceremony because I been here a long time and today have ceremony for the citizenry,” he said. “I am very happy and I like America.”
Sitting behind Diallo was his wife, Rahina. She hasn’t been naturalized yet, but she hopes to have her ceremony soon.
In the row in front of Diallo sat a woman from the United Kingdom, who said that while taking the Oath of Allegiance all she could think was that she had to stop crying.
By the end of the ceremony, strangers from the audience — people who had ostensibly come to hear from filmmaker Steven Spielberg and a man portraying Abraham Lincoln recite the historic speech — were walking over to shake hands with the new citizens.
“Congratulations,” said one woman.
“Welcome,” added another.
“Glad you’re here,” said a third.
“Thank you very much,” said Shanthi Shakamuri. “Honored.”
Shakamuri, a surgeon living in Delaware, is originally from India. He’s been living in the U.S. since 1993.
He says he never imagined his naturalization would be part of such a grand ceremony as the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.
“I was choking up. It’s a big thing,” he said. “It doesn’t happen to too many people too many times.”
The new citizens hail from 11 different countries, including Kenya, Peru, and the Philippines.