The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Travel

September 21, 2013

New Americans celebrate the Constitution

We the people" grew a few dozen members stronger this Constitution Day.

On the holiday that marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution, 48 new Americans swore allegiance to the law of the land in a naturalization ceremony just across from Independence Hall.

U.S. District Judge John R. Padova presided over the oath of citizenship at the National Constitution Center.

"What a wonderful choice for you and your families, for your families' families," he said. "This choice will be part of your heritage."

Gerda Weissmann Klein, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom who founded an organization focused on citizenship, told the participants her own story of becoming a citizen. She first came into contact with the United States, she said, when she saw an American military vehicle arrive at the Nazi concentration camp where she was imprisoned.

She was 21 and weighed just 68 pounds. After years of abuse because of her religion, she felt obligated to tell the American soldier who greeted her, "I am Jewish."

She was surprised to see the emotion in his eyes. He responded, "So am I."

"I love this country. I love it with the love of someone who has been homeless and hungry for so very, very long," Klein told the new citizens. After moving to the United States, she went on not only to tell her story in a successful book and film but to marry the soldier who rescued her.

"A treasure has been handed to you just as sacred as a wedding ring," she said.

The new citizens immigrated to the United States from 27 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Vietnam. As they proudly held up their naturalization certificates, relatives and friends handed them flowers and snapped photographs.

Octavio Ramirez said he had followed the news of U.S. elections since he came from Nicaragua to get his master's degree in business in 2007. He has hoped that he might someday vote in one himself.

"When you vote, your voice is heard for what you think and what you believe," said Ramirez, 30. "You watch the news and you say, 'I don't agree with what's going on. I wish I could do something.' "

Now that he is a citizen, he said, he might even seek the opportunity to work for the U.S. government.

Winsome Brunache said she had longed to become an American citizen since she moved from Jamaica in 1991. "I go to church," she said. "I prayed for this."

Seeking economic opportunity, she left her impoverished home for Los Angeles at age 27, she said, and moved to Philadelphia the next year. She has worked as a housekeeper ever since.

"I feel good," she said after the ceremony, clutching her certificate. She looked forward to announcing her citizenship to her family. "When I tell them today, they're going to cry - I have a son, and I want to do the best for him."

 

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