‘The best of your culture is the best of ours’; 31 people take oath to become Americans

New American citizens taking an oath of allegiance at a Southern Utah naturalization ceremony, St. George, Utah, May 14, 2019 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney. St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Family, friends and women from the Color Country Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution waved hundreds of tiny American flags Tuesday as they celebrated 31 people taking an their oath of allegiance and becoming United States citizens.

Cadets from the Pine View High School Air Force Junior ROTC posting the colors at a naturalization ceremony at Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, May 14, 2019 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

It was a day long overdue for Pakistani native Shadman Bashir who took 19 years to finally become an American citizen and amid the joy of taking his oath of allegiance wanted to make sure he didn’t cry in front of his Dixie State University coworkers because he “won’t be the tough boss” anymore.

The ceremony included applicants who immigrated from 12 countries, including Ecuador, Ukraine, Mexico and Thailand and now live in towns all around Southern Utah. Besides having the responsibility of defending the Constitution as new citizens, they also have the right to vote, are eligible for federal jobs, can serve on juries and can help shape the communities they live in by running for elected office.

Following the posting of colors by cadets from Pine View High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC and the crowd reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the runner-up of “Dixie’s Got Talent” Preslee Heppler opened the patriotic event singing the national anthem.

“President Calvin Coolidge said, ‘To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race,’” U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead told the attendees preparing to take the oath.

“It is a privilege that we simply can’t take for granted and those of you new applicants for naturalization, you’ve taken an incredible task to be here. I want to acknowledge your hardships and struggles. You have made this a reality here today.”

The oath asks them to repeat the words, “I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen,” according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website

Cards presented with gift bags to 31 new American citizens at naturalization ceremony at Dixie State University, May 14, 2019, St. George, Utah | Photo courtesy of Valerie King, St. George News

Pead said that while they will be renouncing their allegiance to the government of another country, it does not mean they give up their love for the country or the people in it.

“It does not mean you should forget or deny your native heritage. To the contrary, the best of your culture is the best of ours,” Pead said. “Your traditions enrich not only your family but they enrich America. Remember that this country was always founded on the diversity of tribes, countries and cultures and it made America great.”

To illustrate how America has embraced people from all corners of the world, the Utah state Daughters of the American Revolution regent Susan Holt told the story of one of her favorite patriots, her maternal fifth grandfather John Tipton and his family’s immigration and development of the frontier states of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. She could relate to the pioneering spirit because the Tipton family also chose to come to a new land and make it their home.

“My immediate family is the product of many such men, women and children immigrants who risked their lives traveling on the Mayflower, fighting for freedom from England or taking their families and settling in uncharted territories across the United States. With them came traditions, cultures, social, political, economic and religious beliefs and views which has helped shape this great nation we live in today,” Holt said.

“As you become an American citizen today, please remember you are adding value to this country. I encourage you to register to vote, become involved in your community and volunteer your time to assist others who are following the right path to American citizenship. Congratulations and God bless America.”

District Judge David Nuffer, who administered the oath, credited his English, German and Danish great-grandparents for coming here and making him a citizen and said he didn’t know what being a citizen meant.

Family and friends gather to support 31 new American citizens at a naturalization ceremony at Dixie State University, May 14, 2019, St. George, Utah | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St . George News

“I learned what being a citizen is by seeing, hearing and meeting you. You bless us with your talents, with your culture, with your language, with your experience, with your recipes,” he said to the chuckling crowd. “With your language skills, I learn languages. I see citizenship in your eyes today and I see it in the eyes of your families who are so glad that this day finally arrived.”

Nuffer reminded everyone to rejoice in the moment and remember those people who were not in the room but also want to become citizens and want to join in the dream of this great country. “Let’s do our part to help them join us,” he said.

Bashir, a professor of criminal law, war and terrorism and global law is director of international student services at DSU. Raised a Muslim near the base of the Himalaya mountains in the tribal areas of Pakistan, he has become known on campus and throughout the community for his firsthand informative lectures on terrorism and the war in Afghanistan, America’s longest running war.

“When I would talk to people back home they would always tell me that you will always be a foreigner – especially in this day and age. And I said ‘No, I won’t be. I’ll be accepted,’” Bashir said.

He looked proudly above in the stands to his child and wife who is also going to apply for citizenship in December.

“Thank you very much. I just can say now I’m a U.S. citizen,” Bashir said. “I’m happy.”

Becoming a citizen takes plenty of patience, often years of paperwork and seemingly endless procedures. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services, it is a 10-step process that ends with a pledge to their new country. The date of the next ceremony will depend on the amount of local applications the service receives.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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