Worth the wait: New citizens sworn in during ceremony at Concord High School 

  • The Concord High School ‘Be the Change Club’ leads the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance at the U.S. District of New Hampshire Naturalization ceremony at the school on Thursday, May 25, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Josephine Bosede Omolola from Rochester waves for her family to come get a photograph with Federal Judge Steven J. McAuliffe after she was sworn in as citizen during the Naturalization ceremony at Concord High School on Thursday, May 25, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Khada Niroula holds his certificate of naturalization at the ceremony at Concord High School on Thursday.

  • Federal judge Steven J. McAuliffe picks up his granddaughter Chloe McAuliffe-Wells after the Naturalization ceremony at Concord High School on Thursday, May 25, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Khada Niroula holds up his certificate of Naturalization at the ceremony at Concord High School Thursday, May 25, 2017. He was with his son Tilak on stage to shake the hand of Federal Judge Steven J. McAuliffe. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord High students Hamza Abdulrahman (center) and Lidia Yen (center, left) listen to the National Anthem during the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire Naturalization ceremony Thursday. Abdulrahman came from North Sudan and Yen from South Sudan, two countries engulfed in civil war since 2013. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Madhina Dhayoul of Manchester gets sworn in as a citizen Thursday, May 25, 2017 by Naturalization Deputy Clerk Valerie Allen with the help of Dhayoul’s son Iftin Ahdirah as interpreter. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Madhina Dhayoul (right) of Manchester gets sworn in as a United States citizen Thursday by Naturalization Deputy Clerk Valerie Allen with the help of Dhayoul’s son, Iftin Ahdirah, as an interpreter during a naturalization ceremony held at Concord High School. Dhayoul was one of 49 immigrants from 25 countries who officially became American citizens. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/25/2017 11:53:59 PM

Twenty-five years ago, at the age of 14, John Shyu and his family immigrated to the United States from Taiwan. Despite living in America since then, Shyu had taken the leap to become a citizen.

“I’ve been in the U.S. for a while,” he said. “My parents have always said become a citizen – pretty much we adopted this country. It has done a lot for us and definitely it’s an honor.”

The decision to become a citizen now, Shyu said, could be partially attributed to international events and partially to the fact that the time felt right.

“There’s a lot of things that are happening around the world and I think it’s important to be a U.S. citizen and represent the U.S. to outsiders,” he said.

Shyu, along with 48 others from 25 countries, became United States citizens Thursday morning during a ceremony at Concord High School.

The ceremony, which is usually held in courthouses, was brought into the community, “in an effort to improve the general citizenry’s knowledge of civics which is so critical,” said Judge Steven McAuliffe, who presided over the ceremony.

As students and visitors streamed into the auditorium, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” Ray Charles’s “Georgia on my Mind” and “America the Beautiful” and other defining American songs welcomed attendants.

McAuliffe, addressing the immigrants, stressed the importance of participating in American society and upholding its laws.

“Think independently, consider other points of view, speak your mind, participate, obey the law, pay your taxes, serve on a jury when called and cast an informed vote in national and local elections,” he said. “It may seem like a rough-and-tumble business, our democracy; sometimes you will be pleased and sometimes disappointed by the changes and direction in our leadership. The important thing is you continue to participate.”

The importance of participating in American institutions was key to the character of the nation, McAuliffe said.

“Always remember that America is a nation of immigrants, just like you,” he said. “Over 98 percent of all United States citizens came from, or trace their ancestry, to some other country. … please do not ever think that your citizenship is of any lesser mettle than any other American, we are nearly all immigrants or sons or daughters of immigrants, but we are all Americans.”

Students from Concord High School’s Be the Change Club, led the audience in reciting the pledge of allegiance. Two members of the club, Hamza Abdulrahman, originally from Sudan, and Lidia Yen, originally from South Sudan, said the ceremony was a great show of unity.

“It felt really good to be here,” Yen said, “because I like to see that other countries’ citizens are living together in peace.”

Abdulrahman said the show of unity was typical of his positive experiences in the United States since he immigrated in 2016.

“I grew up in so many places; the U.S. is the safest place by far,” he said. “I’ve been here for one year and it’s been great.”

Many of the new Americans were grateful to take the step and enjoy the opportunities the United States has to offer.

Josiane Martins, who immigrated from Brazil, said becoming a citizen was a crucial point in her life.

“I was waiting for this process for four years, and this is one of the most important days, I can’t believe I’m here today,” she said. “Originally I came because I wanted to learn the language, I have an international business degree from Brazil.”

Abhi Ghatak, a native of India, cited the political climate and desire to vote as a reason he chose to become a citizen after living in the United States for the past 35 years.

“I came here to get my undergraduate degree and my grad degree in engineering,” he said. “I’ve lived the American dream, got a great job, we own a home in New Hampshire. It’s been great.”

Josephine Omolola, who came from Nigeria to help take care of her grandchildren in 2011, said one of her goals, now that she was a citizen, was to become involved in the political process due to the current political environment.

“The first thing I’m going to do is, in the next election, I’m going to vote,” she said.

(Lucas Masin-Moyer can be reached at lmasinmoyer@cmonitor.com.)

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