Naturalization ceremony celebrates citizenship

by Kit Murray

To honor and welcome new citizens, MSUM hosted its annual Naturalization Ceremony Thursday in the CMU Ballroom. The cultural event brings light to Constitution Day, a day to remember the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, as well as those who have become naturalized citizens.

David Wahlberg, executive director for communications and marketing, welcomed the audience. He shared with them his experience growing up in a family of immigrants.

Student Senate President Sean Duckworth was also present to represent the student body and law clerk Michael Sly performed the call-to-order.

Prior to the event, the new Americans completed numerous government-required steps to achieving citizenship. They were required to take an English and civics test, apply for naturalization and study the duties and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship.

Thursday’s historical ceremony had an outstanding turnout of 70 new citizens from 30 different countries. Colombia, Lebanon and Somalia were just a few represented. In previous years, the average number of incoming citizens averaged around 30 – 40 people.

The ceremony is considered the last step for those working towards gaining citizenship. Once completed, each person is handed a certificate and is officially welcomed into the country as an American citizen.

As a publicly funded university, MSUM is encouraged to host events like this, which help to bring community and faculty members together to celebrate citizenship.

Chang-Seong Hong, a philosophy professor who was naturalized last year, shared his experience and what it means to him to be an American citizen.

“If you want to be a part of this country, in its full sense, we need a serious commitment,” he said. “I wanted to become a citizen to engage in the American life. I have just one life and I have no intention to waste my life watching things as an outsider. This is what I like — we do serious things. We get difficult jobs done. But we do this with humor.” 

Dr. Andrew Conteh shared his perspective on how powerful he thought the event had been.

“It’s rewarding for us to be part of the last stage,” he said. “They become citizens of the United States of America on our campus; it’s a historic event that we will never forget.”

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