The National Constitution Center celebrated the 226th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution by offering free admission to the museum and special events, and hosting the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Naturalization Ceremony. Fifty immigrants from more than 27 countries received their certificates of U.S. Citizenship. New citizens held up their hands to take the the Oath of Allegiance in the NCC’s Kirby Auditorium.
“Oh, how happy we are to have you,” said honorable Judge John Padova, who presided over the ceremony, to the new citizens.
NCC President and CEO Jeffery Rosen told immigrants that citizenship matters, and that the word “citizen” appears in the Constitution more than 10 times for a reason. “I am convinced that the Constitution is a conversation,” added Rosen.
Along with their certificates, new citizens received a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution. Rosen joked that now when they have a problem they can ask, “WWJMD — What would James Madison do?” and consult the Constitution.
Writer, holocaust survivor and naturalized citizen Gerda Weissmann Klein offered key remarks at the ceremony. She spoke of life as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. When she was released, she hadn’t bathed in three years and only weighed 68 lbs.
“All I wanted in this life was to be free,” she said, asking new citizens not to take freedom for granted.
Weissmann Klein’s words resonated with Princess Sheriff, a student from Liberia who left home seven years ago because of war. She said that the experience of receiving her certificate was amazing.
Nathan Kim, originally of South Korea, felt a similar sentiment. He’s been in the U.S. for 15 years and plans to celebrate with a family dinner.
“For the first time,” Kim said, “I feel like I’m part of the country.”