Four-dozen men and women from all walks of life and all over the globe became United States citizens Thursday at a naturalization ceremony at in Concord.
Sitting in the very spot where embattled farmers long ago took up arms against the British Regulars, these mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers disavowed their former rulers and pledged to defend the Constitution against all enemies.
“As I look out at all of you, I’m moved by the diversity of your faces and backgrounds,” said Nancy Nelson, superintendent of MMNHP. “Truly, as Americans, we are all part of a global family. You will bring the richness of your cultures to your new country and this will make us stronger and more able to meet the challenges of the future.”
Nelson, like the speakers who followed her address, stressed the responsibilities that accompany citizenship and the symbolism of becoming a citizen of the United States on battlegrounds where this nation was born.
“Today, you are in the very place where ordinary citizens stood up for their basic rights and liberties and ignited this nation’s struggle for independence,” said Nelson. “That same spirit and spark continues to ignite similar struggles around the world, even to this day. We hope that you will always remember this day, and this special place, as you accept the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship. May your voices always be heard in this great democracy and may they always be raised in support of our country’s highest and most hopeful and noble ideals.”
Holding a naturalization ceremony on the grounds of a National Park is an idea encouraged by a partnership between the National Park Service and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, officials said.
In her remarks, Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal, who presided over the ceremony, said she felt the location was appropriate.
“It is very fitting that the naturalization ceremony take place here, at Minute Man National Historical Park, the birthplace of our liberty, where other new Americans called out for freedom,” said Boal. “The citizenship you have earned gives you the opportunity for a better life. Although that is very important to all of us, citizenship is more than just the right to live here. As citizens of the United States, you have power, privilege and responsibility.”
It was, by all accounts, a glorious day.
The sun shone brightly in cloudless noontime sky. An occasional breeze blew across the Concord River and bent golden blades of grass in the fields leading down to the .
Daniel Chester French’s Concord Minuteman statue stood proudly in the background as Johann D’Souza, a student at Lexington’s , led a recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
Later, his mother and father attained U.S. citizenship, a status they now share with their young sons.
“We’re proud to be Americans,” said Wilson D’Souza, who, with his wife Sonal, came to Lexington from New York City, by way of Bombay, India. “What a beautiful day, and to be able to share it with our sons…”
Adding to the wonderment was a recorded greeting from President Barack Obama, which segued into a rendition of “Proud to be an American” that had many new Americans swaying and waving plastic flags.
“Today marks a very special day in your life. You’ve traveled a long path to get here. You’ve sworn a solemn oath to this country and now have all the rights of citizenship,” the bodiless Obama said. “With the privilege of citizenship, though, comes great responsibility. And so I ask that you use your freedoms and your talents to contribute to the good of our nation and the world. Always remember that, in America, no dream is impossible. Like the millions of immigrants who have come before you, you have the opportunity to enrich this country through your contributions to civic society, business, culture and your community. You can help right the next great chapter in our American story. Together, we can keep the beacon that is America burning bright for all the world to see.”