The day finally arrived. Some had waited decades. All waited years.
The Seattle Field Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalized 17 new American citizens from 12 countries at a ceremony at Meeker Middle School on Tuesday. Similar ceremonies were held around the nation to mark President’s Day. The Tacoma ceremony included new citizens from Australia, Canada, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Moldova, Norway, Somalia, South Korea, Thailand, the Ukraine and the United Kingdom. The Stadium High School Navy-JROTC Honor Guard posted the colors and the Meeker Mixed Choir sang the national anthem.
About 150 Meeker students attended the ceremony after winning a lottery of students who had excelled in their citizenship studies. Other citizenship activities took place in
individual classrooms throughout the day as part of the school’s President’s Day celebration.
“The United States is a young country that continues to evolve,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland during her keynote address. She said that immigrants play a vital role in the nation because they are more likely to start businesses than native-born Americans. “America is great because we know we are not perfect, but we strive to be better.”
She also challenged the new citizens to now exercise their duty to their adopted country by voting in every election and getting involved and aware of civic affairs wherever they live.
“It is a big responsibility; don’t take it lightly,” she said.
Srinivasan Kannan and his wife, Suhasini Varadhana, came to America from India 17 years ago and applied for their citizenship long before immigration became a centerpiece of the presidential platform, but they hope all sides of the political landscape discuss as well as listen in hopes of finding common ground.
“Both parties need to reach out to the community,” Kannan said.