Exactly one month before Americans unite to commemorate Independence Day, 30 men and women came together to celebrate another kind of historical milestone – becoming American citizens.
Representing over 15 countries, the newly minted group was naturalized as they recited the “Oath of Allegiance” for the first time in front of family and friends, Monday, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Holding small American flags, husband and wife, Muhammad Abbas and Haseeba Ismaiel, of Pakistan, expressed their joy in not only sharing their new citizenship, but having their six and four year old daughters witness the event.
Muhammad tearfully exclaimed what he loves about America. “Freedom for everything! Freedom of speech, freedom of religion – it’s the land of opportunities!”
Sixty-nine year old Manuel Santana, who was born in the Dominican Republic, planned to celebrate the day with his wife, son and niece enjoying arroz con pollo, (chicken with rice). Grinning, he added, “I am very happy today.”
Mariya Fomicheva laughed softly and sported a broad smile. Originally from Ukraine, Mariya shared the moment with her husband of 32 years as she clutched her citizenship certificate. “I love America,” she said, adding wistfully, “I love my future.”
Along with flags and official citizenship documents, each new citizen received a lifetime membership to the National Constitution Center. Center COO, Vince Stango, said to the group, “I hope the center is a place you will return to often to remember and cherish the Constitutional ideals that have inspired Americans for nearly 225 years.”
Students from Philadelphia’s Charles W. Henry School sang the National Anthem and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Marjorie “Midge” Rendell gave the keynote speech. Calling it a day of rebirth, Rendell acknowledged the equally “wonderful” and “difficult” nature of any rebirth and hoped the new Americans would seek out mentors as they begin their citizenship journey.
Avedis Aglidjan, of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, welcomed the newest Americans by sharing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We may have arrived in different ships, but we’re on the same boat now.”
Citizenship Counts, a non-profit dedicated to citizenship education and awareness, coordinated the event.