On June 16, Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park had the distinct honor of hosting 48 new American citizens for a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Naturalization Ceremony. Representing 24 countries, from the People’s Republic of China, to Russia, to Venezuela, the Park welcomed these newly-minted Americans who, after long and winding paths towards citizenship, took an oath of allegiance to the United States. These inductees joined countless other immigrants and dreamers who have, since our country’s inception, come to American shores seeking freedom, security, and prosperity. The diversity of these new citizens’ backgrounds, coupled with their sheer joy with officially becoming Americans, offered a stark reminder of what it is that truly makes America great.
The festivities were kicked off with a rousing performance by the United States Marine Corps Band of New Orleans, who offered their own renditions of patriotic anthems with a distinct Big Easy twang. Following the presentation of colors by the Navy Operational Support Center of New York City and introductory remarks by Four Freedoms Park Conservancy’s Board Chairman Barbara Shattuck Kohn, new citizens were greeted by government officials David B. Roberts, the Supervisory Immigration Services Officer for the USCIS Field Office, and John E. Thompson, Acting District Director for USCIS New York District Office. These officials proudly presided over a call of countries, presentation of candidates, and the administration of Oath of Allegiance. With right hands raised, participants pledged their fidelity to the United States and all that the nation represents. Throughout the ceremony, and even long after its conclusion, wide grins and watery eyes could be found on the faces of everyone in attendance.
Ms. Salimada Kone, a United States resident since 2008 and a native of Ivory Coast, welcomed the chance to finally become a United States citizen, helping her “to progress as a person, and to help other people understand the meaning of freedom.” Mr. Pashk Karrica, originally from Albania, said that he believes that the idea of citizenship means “dedicating” himself “to the Constitution of the United States and what it stands for.” Mr. Luis de Leon, a native of the Dominican Republic who has lived in New York for ten years, echoed the first of President Roosevelt’s four freedoms, saying that he identifies with American ideals like “freedom of speech, because it means that [he] can express whatever [he] want[s].”
In the midst of what can often be a divisive political environment, the ceremony was a humbling and inspirational experience for all who were involved. Despite differences in race, religion, creed, national origin, sexual and gender identity, and any other shade of contrast, the morning offered a stark reminder that, regardless of background, we are all one nation. Indeed, as President Roosevelt so eloquently declared in 1938, amidst another turbulent era in American history, we must all “remember, remember always, that all of us, you and I especially, are descended from immigrants.”
Photos by Rowa Lee.