Sunday, September 17 marked the 228th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, a day commonly honored as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day—acknowledging the role not only of our founding document but also of the citizens who live by it.
How special, then, that one day after this noteworthy anniversary, we welcomed more than 200 immigrants hailing from 60 countries as they took their Oath of Allegiance, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the national anthem, and joined our nation as new citizens. (Have you ever read or heard the Oath of Allegiance? Read it below!)
Though not a new experience for the Museum—the New-York Historical Society has had the honor of hosting naturalization ceremonies for the last 12 years—this privilege is particularly exciting right now thanks to our Citizenship Project, an educational initiative we launched this year that offers free civics classes to green card holders to help prepare for the naturalization exam. The Citizenship Project is a crucial part of our mission to serve our community and offer educational opportunities for the residents and citizens of New York and the nation.
Monday’s ceremony included welcoming words from Louise Mirrer, New-York Historical Society president & CEO; Onida Coward Mayers, director of voter assistance with NYC Votes, the New York Campaign Finance Board (who helped register new citizens as voters!); John Carrington, chief of staff for the USCIS New York District Office; Dr. John E. Thompson, acting district director of the USCIS New York District Office; Ira A. Lipman, New-York Historical Society trustee and founder and chairman emeritus of Guardsmark; and the keynote speaker, Joon H. Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Each speaker reminded these new citizens of their responsibilities as well as their significance to their new country. Ms. Mayers encouraged new citizens to, “Live your American dream. Start your family legacy,” as well as employ their civic duty: “It all starts with voting.” Mr. Lipman reminded us of our nation’s infancy and our collective place in the great American experiment: “Our Constitution was only written 200 years ago. We are a young nation. So you are pioneers in the growth of our great country.”
But it was Mr. Kim, a first generation Korean American, who perhaps articulated most powerfully the importance of new citizens to the fabric and ideals of our nation, stretching back centuries to our founding principles and the founders themselves (with a bit of humor to boot):
As America’s newest citizens, you may feel like you should take a backseat for a while. Or maybe you feel, because you are new, that the country’s great history and traditions have somewhat less to do with you than to others whose families have been here for generations. And for many of you, and that includes myself, we don’t exactly look like our Founding Fathers. (I know some of you look a little bit like Ben Franklin, but most of you don’t.)
But if you thought that way, you would be wrong. Because the thing is, in many very important ways, this group today has more in common with those who founded this country than Americans whose families have been here for generations. Like our founders, you and your family members have risked everything you know and everything you have for a new life here, and in that critically important way, at this moment you are more American than anyone else.
Oath of Allegiance
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 the 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.
These 200 new U.S. citizens hailed from 60 countries:
Albania, Algeria, Antigua-Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Serbia, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, The Gambia, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
Congratulation, new citizens!
Do you know what it takes to become an American citizen? Take our Citizenship Quiz to try your hand at some of the questions on the USCIS Naturalization Exam.
Watch the Fox5 segment on the ceremony:
– Written by Claire L. Lanier, New-York Historical Society staff