AP NEWS

One Oath, Endless Opportunity

March 14, 2019
"I feel delighted beyond words to be able to call myself an American," said Inder Singh of Marlboro.

GARDNER -- To celebrate what one new citizen called “the greatest country in the world,” 225 candidates for citizenship swore their allegiance to the United States today ceremony held by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“I cannot tell you what a great honor it is for me to be the first to congratulate you as new citizens of the United States of America -- great job, well done,” U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Hillman said after administering the Oath of Allegiance to those gathered at Mount Wachusett Community College on Wednesday.

“I am proud to call each and every one of you a fellow American,” Hillman said, adding that those who had just become official citizens followed in the footsteps of millions who came before them from all over the world. “For hundreds of years, people fleeing from war and revolution, from genocide, from discrimination, from oppression, famine, and poverty, have come to this country seeking freedom and hope and the same opportunities that face you here today.”

Inder Singh of Marlboro wore an “I Heart Jesus” cap and clutched an American flag as he swore allegiance to the U.S. He said becoming an American citizen meant everything to him.

“I feel delighted beyond words to be able to call myself an American and being able to vote and serve on a jury, and being in the mainstream of the United States,” said Singh, who is fluent in four languages and works as an interpreter.

In addition to becoming citizens, 40 candidates were granted permission to legally change their names during the ceremony. The national anthem and “God Bless America” were sung by Mount Wachusett alum Kelly Bator. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by two sisters from Marlboro, Mari and Sosie Gyozalyan, whose mother was among those who became citizens.

“It’s our country now,” said Kajan Kaushick of Shrewsbury, who said she had been living in the United States for 18 years, nearly as long as the 20 years she spent growing up in India. “I’m very excited, happy and emotional.”

The candidates came from nearly 60 countries, including Eritrea, Italy, Armenia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, and Canada. They reside in cities and towns including Fitchburg, Lowell, Ashburnham, Leominster and Littleton.

Steward Shepherd of Webster said he had been living in the U.S. since 1981, longer than he had lived in England.

“I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator,” Shepherd said, adding that he was happy to finally be making his U.S. citizenship official. He said he was a bit surprised to be sitting in the college theater while the music of the Beatles played over the speaker. “Because we went to the Beatles museum in Liverpool last June, so (hearing them today) is just like icing on the cake.”

Anna Maria Linares of Malden said she was excited to be taking the big step into U.S. citizenship, calling it the dream of so many immigrants who came before her. She said she was happy to now have the opportunity to vote in the nation’s elections.

“I can now choose the leader who’s best for my family and the community,” Linares said.

In his remarks, Mayor Mark Hawke noted that there was a certain “buzz” among those assembled in the audience.

“Everyone here is actually happy to be here, they’re excited to be here, they are smiling, and that’s because this is one of my favorite days of the year because we welcome all of you -- not just into the United States, not just into Massachusetts -- but several of you into the city of Gardner,” Hawke said.

“It’s so important to become a citizen, I’m so happy,” said Poonam Rijhsinghani of Westboro. “And I can vote, yes. That’s the best part!”

Hillman noted that the new citizens and their children would now enjoy the same freedoms, privileges and opportunities as every other American.

“Perhaps one of the children in the room today -- in fact, perhaps more than one -- will be a great leader of our nation,” Hillman said.

He said citizenship comes with certain obligations, including taking part in elections, jury duty, and the payment of taxes. And he noted that other obligations were just as important, if perhaps less obvious.

“They are to work hard, live responsibly, and help preserve the freedoms and opportunities that so many have fought and died to secure so that we could all be here today.”

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