Today, as we celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, I was privileged to join with fellow members of the League of Women Voters at Sagamore Hill, home of Theodore Roosevelt, a National Historic Site, to witness the swearing in of forty-six new citizens, originally from twenty-seven different countries. After they were sworn in the League distributed applications to register to vote, which almost all filled out.
The keynote address was given by the Honorable Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge, 2nd Circuit of Appeals of NY; Master of Ceremonies was the Honorable A. Kathleen Tomlinson, US Magistrate Judge, Eastern District of NY. In 2014 Judge Katzmann began a civic education initiative to encourage young people’s interest in the workings of the Federal Courts, and the duties and privileges of US citizens. To that end, those invited to witness and take part in the ceremony included Syosset South Woods Middle School Jazz Choir and Chamber orchestra, both of whom performed beautifully, and 8th grade students, thus offering the youngsters the opportunity to see democracy in action.
But the main stars of the show were the new citizens themselves, proudly standing to take the Oath of Allegiance, promising to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America,” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to same.” The location of Sagamore Hill itself offered its own magic, with the spirit of our 26th President not far away. One thinks he would have enjoyed the ceremony immensely.
At a time of such tumultuous politicking and contentious public debate it was refreshing and humbling to see so many new citizens grateful for the chance to make the American dream their own.