(Host) On a day of solemn observances, there was also a celebration in Burlington yesterday. The celebration marked a passage for 42 people who chose September 11 to become U.S. citizens.
VPR’s John Dillon was there.
(Court clerk) “The federal court for the district of Vermont is now in session.”
(Dillon) A courtroom can be a imposing place. On Wednesday, the fifth floor federal courtroom in Burlington was full of smiles, even a few tears of joy. Forty-two people from Asia, Canada, Eastern Europe and Latin America became U.S citizens. The ceremony contained many lessons on the rights and the responsibilities of citizenship.
Judge William Sessions told the new Americans that he chose this day for the naturalization ceremony because of the values of liberty and free expression on which the country was founded.
(Sessions) “Terrorists want to destroy those freedoms. Our answer to terrorism must be in the solemn and dedicated protection of those liberties. After all, those cherished freedoms are why we are all so proud to be Americans. So why do we commemorate September 11 at a naturalization ceremony? It’s because naturalization ceremonies bring to life the values and beliefs that distinguish the American experience from many others.”
(Dillon) The judge reminded the crowd that the rights of citizenship require constant protection.
(Sessions) “You’re accepting a country which safeguards the right of some which would even put in dangers its very institutions. You must remain firm in your convictions and not falter when the right of freedom is in danger. The right to vote is at risk each time you fail to vote. The right of free speech is threatened every time you do not speak your convictions.”
(Dillon) One by one, a court officer read the names. One by one, 42 people stood for the naturalization oath.
(Sessions) “Now, will you all raise your right hand and repeat after me: I hereby declare that I will support and defend the constitutions and the laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
(Dillon) Bosnian immigrant Hamad Camvzic was grinning as he left the courtroom.
(Camvzic) “Today, I have emotions. I am very happy today. The reason is, I am American citizen. America has good democracy, I think. The reason I came here from Bosnia, to see that democracy and to be happy.”
(Dillon) One person leaving the courtroom said she was glad the ceremony was held on September 11. She said it gave her a reason to smile on what otherwise would have been a bleak day of remembrance.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon at the federal courthouse in Burlington.