Old Salem hosts Fourth of July nationalization ceremony
(pictured above: The new citizens take their oath on July 4th.)
Old Salem Museum and Gardens kicked off a day of Fourth of July activities last Friday with a nationalization ceremony.
Forty-eight immigrants took the oath of citizenship during the hour-long outdoor ceremony in picturesque Salem Square. They hail from 31 countries around the world, including Spain, Poland, Kuwait, Israel, Kenya, Liberia and Butan. Most of them have lived in the United States for many years and are well-established in their communities, with jobs and families. Finally getting a certificate of nationalization was the end of a long process and an accomplishment they’ll never forget.
Salah Osman came to the United States from Sudan in 1995 to attend N.C. A&T State University. He’s had his own beauty supply store, Twins Discount Center in Greensboro, since 2000 and is married with four children. One of his sons, Ramy, recorded the ceremony on a mobile device.
He said he’s living an “American Dream,” the sort that many in this country take for granted.
“ (When) you are born here, you don’t feel it, but you come from overseas, you feel it,” he said.
Ireland native David Halpin came to the United States at age 11, when his father got a job in Salisbury. He said that North Carolina was a far cry from the metropolitan America he saw as a kid on TV shows like “Kojak” and “Starsky and Hutch.”
Now 40, he works as an IT business analyst at MSC Industrial Supply and is married with two children. He said the United States is the greatest country in the world.
“It’s just such a vast country, with people and places and interesting destinations,” he said. “I feel like you don’t have to go anywhere abroad when you live here; there’s so many things to do here. I still got a lot of this country left to see. I look forward to doing that as a citizen.”
Haplin said voting is the single biggest thing he’s looking forward to doing as a citizen.
Gastonia resident Galo Samaniego said he’s looking forward to the easier access to higher education that citizenship will afford him.
He came from his native Ecuador at age 20 after being left brokenhearted by a former girlfriend and a falling out with his father. He knew no English, but worked hard, landing a good job and a home.
A back injury has left him medically disabled for the past several years; he plans to go to college, which he’ll now be able to afford with the cheaper in-state tuition he now qualifies for as a citizen. He hopes a college degree will help him once again find gainful employment.
The married father of four was overwhelmed with emotion about finally becoming a citizen.
“There’s too many feelings: excited, nervous, responsible,” he said. “I remember my country. I remember the day when my son was born. I think that’s the best thing this country gave me.”
This is the fourth time Old Salem has hosted a Fourth of July nationalization ceremony for are immigrants. Old Salem President Regan Folan said it’s an appropriate venue since the town of Salem held the nation’s first official celebration of Independence Day in 1783.
“It is very fitting that Salem Square be the place and, specifically, Fourth of July be the day that we welcome these new Americans as official citizens; historically Salem was conceived and built by first-generation immigrants,” she said. “It was a place visited regularly by people around the world as the Moravians were so interested in importing ideas and talent to build their community.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Southeast Regional Director Kathy Redman gave the new citizens the oath and averred that immigration strengthens the country.
“The U.S. is a country of diversity, and we are a nation of immigrants and everyone brings something special to that mix,” she said. “We hope that you go out today and every day that you’re U.S. citizens and spread that new United States citizen feel; but also spread a little bit about your (native) country; make sure you keep your roots alive with your children, your grandchildren and others.”
The new citizens also heard words of inspiration from fellow naturalized citizen Dr. Ajay Patel, a native of India and director of Wake Forest University’s Center for Enterprise Research and Education.
“We come from so many different countries, which means that as a group, we bring together access to so many different viewpoints and, most importantly, can serve as bridges to many different countries and cultures,” he said. “This is where I believe we have a competitive advantage, where we can help increase understanding between people of different cultures.”