“Only three percent of the world population live in a different country than the one they were born in,” Professor R. Wright said on Tuesday during the Naturalization ceremony.
Being qualified to become a citizen of a new country is difficult, even without factoring in the trying journeys that many immigrants face. The Loomis Chaffee community shared a heartfelt hour as 39 Windsor residents from 22 different countries finished their arduous journeys to become citizens of the United States in our very own Olcott gym. The audience roared in approval as each individual rose to receive their certificate, making for an unforgettable day for both the people being naturalized and many others in the LC community.
“One of the biggest cheers was for the Syrian woman in the ceremony…Before the event, I had a chance to talk to some of the folk who were naturalizing. She was one of the people with whom I spoke. She has many family members still in Syria, in and around Damascus. So the applause for her was heartwarming,” Dr. Wright commented on Thursday.
“Gaining citizenship is no easy feat, and overcoming the ridiculously harsh system is an accomplishment that each and every person should be proud of. Seeing the smiles on their faces made me smile, and reminded me of what America has become (in all the good and the bad), and what its potential may hold,” said Sydney Stewart, the PRISM club president.
The ceremony also had its share of sociopolitical statements: “…a few did not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. This could be related to the Colin Kaepernick protest and Black Lives Matter. However, I believe this to be more of a protest against institutionalized discrimination and not the naturalization of immigrants,” said senior Evan McDonagh. Although condemned by some, this expression of personal opinion does stand by the American traditional value of freedom of expression.
The event took a lot of organization but eventually ran perfectly smoothly. Chamber Singers performed “The Star Spangled Banner” and “This Land is Your Land.” Some younger audience members enthusiastically sang along while others might have heard the tunes for the first time. But no matter the age, gender, race, or any other differences we may have amongst each other, the ceremony gave everyone in the room a real life understanding of how difficult it is to become an U.S. citizen in order to enjoy the same protection and freedom many of us are fortunately born with.
“As imperfect as the United States is…there are still millions of people who want to come here, are willing to go through multiple steps to become citizens, and are willing to pledge an oath of allegiance which includes service to the country. For those of us who were born into citizenship, it is our job to serve our nation as best we can, especially when that means challenging the norms to make it better for all. Our freedoms of speech, press, assembly not only entitle us to challenge our society to be better, but give us responsibility to challenge our society to be better for all,” answered Mrs. Pond, a speaker at the event, when asked about one key takeaway from the ceremony. At last, showing our support toward the immigration issue momentarily during the convocation is far from enough. The naturalization ceremony has successfully brought awareness, but to continue supporting this issue is a different story. Here are some tips from the directors of the Norton Center for the Common Good, Mrs. Pond and Mr. LaForest, and Dr. Wright, professor of geography at Dartmouth College:
“Appreciate and use the rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. Take responsibility for the nation: support its strengths and work to fix its weaknesses. Vote. Stay apprised of current events. Engage others in conversation and debate over issues on which you disagree. Work to understand others, especially when their perspective is fundamentally different from our own.”
“Community engagement, including and even beyond the civic duties that MP enumerates. As the grandson of two German immigrants, I feel strongly that we must get to know people who originate from different backgrounds. Then we can begin to get past divisive political rhetoric and entrenched economic problems. We will see that we have more in common with each other than we might think. E pluribus unum, as Dr. Wright reminded us.”
“Embrace the ideals we celebrated at the ceremony. Stay on top of current issues. Try hard to listen to, and understand, opposing viewpoints. Be politically aware and active.”
The Loomis Chaffee students overall had a good time. Many entered the room believing the ceremony to be nothing more than any ordinary convocation but were pleasantly surprised by its depth. “To be honest, I thought the ceremony will just consist of naturalized citizens swearing their oath to America and getting the certificate. I did not expect the ceremony to have so much more sentimental aspect involved: I was truly able to see and feel how happy each of the naturalized citizens were amidst their family cheering for them, waving the small U.S. flag after receiving the certificate, and the loud cheering the entire crowd made,” said junior Rosie Park.
“It was undoubtedly worth it to attend the naturalization ceremony…A stunning moment was the Ecuadorian man, dancing happily after receiving his certificate. The crowd got intensely into it, clapping and stomping their feet, the ground quaking with each thud. It was a great event that really showed me how great of a privilege it is to be a born American citizen,” said freshman Nolan Lorenzana.