Queens Welcomes New U.S. Citizens
By JOE MARVILLI
|The new citizens gather after the naturalization ceremony at the King Manor Museum on Monday.
Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen
King Manor Museum held a naturalization ceremony on Sept. 17, the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.
Occurring on what is known as Citizenship Day, the ceremony meant the beginning of a new life for the 75 citizens naturalized, and for their families who came out to celebrate with them. The weather was sunny and warm, but the crowd was comfortable, shaded under a tent in King Manor’s backyard. The museum is the one-time home of Rufus King, one of the Founding Fathers and one of the five framers of the Constitution.
Following the presentation of colors by members of the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard, Congressman Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica) took to the podium to welcome the new citizens.
“People from all over the world coming to one land, becoming citizens, and working together as one to make it better for all,” he said. “That’s what this is all about.” Meeks was largely responsible for getting the citizenship ceremony at King Manor back in 2003.
The candidates were then presented to the Hon. Margo K. Brodie, judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, who led them in taking the Pledge of Allegiance. Coming from 19 different nations, the candidates stood when the name of their countries were called to much applause. The inductees came from Bangladesh, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Pakistan, Haiti, Nigeria, El Salvador, China, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Morocco, Nepal, Romania, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka.
King Manor Museum caretaker Roy Fox went up to talk about the history of Rufus King’s role in the fight for equality. During his time as a U.S. Senator, King made a passionate speech in Congress, condemning slavery and upholding the Constitution’s vision of equality.
Connecting King’s fight to today, Fox said “What an example Senator Rufus King sets for us in our generation, win, lose, or draw. Do for future generations what has been done for us by those who have gone before.”
One of the more notable speeches was a prerecorded message from President Barack Obama, who said, “Always remember that in America, no dream is impossible.”
The recording was followed by a visual segment of America’s history and diversity, played to the tune of “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall talked about her experience as the daughter of two immigrants.
“I lost both of them early in life, but I made it because I was in America and America took care of me,” Marshall said.
“In order for this country to continue to understand its diversity, you need to be involved directly,” said Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). “You need to be part of every opportunity to make change in this community, to make change in this borough, to make change in this country.”
Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) lauded the opportunities America will provide for the new citizens.
“This is a great mystic portal that you just walked through today that will continue to reap benefits for you and for your progeny,” he said.
Once the ceremony ended, many of the newly inducted citizens chose to go into King Manor to sign a replica of the U.S. Constitution. There were smiles, tears of joy, and the waving of small American flags from proud families.
Medgar Thom, originally from Guyana, came to America over ten years ago and was happy to finally be naturalized.
“I’m excited to be a citizen,” he said. “I’ve waited a long time for this.” When asked what he plans to do now that he’s taken the Oath of Allegiance, his answer was very civic-minded.
“My first priority: I want to vote,” Thom said.
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at email@example.com.