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Kelly's Korner: Naturalization ceremony highlighted by diversity

Joe Kelly, Boonville Herald columnist
Posted 6/24/22

Kelly reflects on recent naturalization Ceremony in Utica...

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Kelly's Korner: Naturalization ceremony highlighted by diversity


The group was eclectic, the most diverse group I’d ever been in. 

The program, handed out to participants and guests, had the Statue of Liberty on the cover and this headline: “Naturalization Ceremony, June 16, 2022, United States District Court, Utica, New York.”

We were in the Alexander Pirnie (who was a member of Congress from 1959 until 1973) Federal Building on Broad Street, once the main Post Office.

On the first floor today is the Social Security office. The third floor is occupied by Judge David Hurd and the Federal District Court for the Northern District over which he presides.

In his chambers before the ceremony he said swearing in new citizens was something he loved doing. That’s good because he has been doing it for decades and has sworn in more than 8,000 of them.

This day, there were exactly 50 people to be sworn in as new citizens. The ceremony didn’t begin until 11 o’clock, but as one official involved told me in advance, they arrive much earlier.

“They don’t want to be late and they are quite excited and happy,” he said, which I found to be the case, and proud, too. 

The names in the program started with Hamza Essarghini Ait, originally from Morocco, and ended with Inna Ivanovna Yevcheva, born in Ukraine.

In between were people from Jordan, Libya, Egypt, Serbia. Jamaica, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, China, Poland, Argentina, Canada, Dominican Republic, Somalia, Turkey, Vietnam, Sudan, Syria, Saint Lucia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Africa, South Korea, and Russia.

Judge Hurd congratulated them on their accomplishment and told them that with all the advantages of U.S. citizenship also comes responsibilities and urged them to vote. In fact, the League of Women Voters had a table in the courtroom with information. 

One of the new citizens, Jana Selimovic, formerly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was chosen in advance to speak. We sat together in front. She told me she didn’t know why she had been chosen and that she was nervous. I told her I didn’t know why Judge Hurd had chosen me to speak and that I was nervous too.

Jana did great and talked about opportunity and pride and her family. She was tearful but didn’t cry.

I spoke about John Devereux who grew up on a farm in County Wexford, Ireland and came here in 1802. He became a citizen, started his own dry goods store, became wealthy, founded the Savings Bank of Utica and became mayor of Utica in 1840. The new citizens seemed impressed.

The Pledge of Allegiance was recited during the ceremony. I told the new citizens that it had been written by Francis Bellamy from Rome, New York in 1892. They seemed impressed by that, too.

Leaving the building I spotted one of the new citizens on the sidewalk talking with friends. I remembered him from the ceremony because of his big smile and the distinctive style of his coat, which I’m sure had symbolic ties to his homeland.

Now he was also wearing a plastic Yankee Doodle hat, red, white and blue, the kind of hat people wear on Fourth of July. His smile was still big.

I liked his look. It seemed appropriate for the day.


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