Students Assist at Naturalization Ceremonies on Constitution Day/Citizenship Day
Federal courts around the country celebrated Constitution Day and Citizenship Day by arranging for students to welcome new U.S. citizens at nearly 50 naturalization ceremonies throughout September. The events marked the 230th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.
Students of all ages attended the living civics lessons, with the opportunity to recite letters and poems to newly naturalized citizens, perform the national anthem, or lead the Pledge of Allegiance – activities aimed at giving them a better understanding of the process of becoming a citizen.
Courts from Hawaii to New Hampshire and from Illinois to Texas involved their communities and local schools — from elementary grades to graduating law school classes — in the events. Naturalization ceremonies typically take place in ceremonial courtrooms, but many courts opted to host them at schools, universities, convention centers, and national parks and historic sites for Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
In Concord, New Hampshire, District Judge Landya McCafferty gave 200 middle school students hands-on experience with each branch of government. Both the governor and the speaker of the House spoke at a naturalization ceremony, and the students toured the statehouse and had on-site lessons about the governor’s office, the legislature, and the state court system.
In Peoria, Illinois, 400 eighth graders witnessed Central Illinois District Court Chief Judge James E. Shadid swear in more than 680 new citizens at the Peoria Civic Center. To help them prepare for the experience, the Peoria Public Schools produced a video in which the students explained their favorite freedom in the Bill of Rights. Students also wrote letters of welcome that they delivered to the new citizens. One eighth grader wrote:
“Your simple presence on this soil only adds to our wealth of diversity. You, as every human does, deserve to pursue your own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.”
Here is a sampling of other Constitution Day and Citizenship Day events:
Two ceremonies were held at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Sept. 20, 2017, with California Central Bankruptcy Judge Sandra R. Klein and District Judge Christina A. Snyder presiding. Nearly 10,000 people were naturalized, and the Huntington Middle School choir performed during one of the ceremonies.
District of Columbia
Students from the Harriet Tubman Elementary School recited the Preamble to the Constitution and led the Pledge of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony on Sept. 12, 2017 at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse. District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss presided over the ceremony for more than 100 new citizens.
Oyster Bay, New York
New York Eastern Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson presided over a naturalization ceremony at former President Theodore Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill on Sept. 18, 2017, welcoming about 50 new citizens. Student contest winners from the Oyster Bay East Norwich School District read an open letter and poem, and musical ensembles from Oyster Bay High School performed.
A naturalization ceremony at Red Bank High School featured a performance from the school band and a presentation of colors by the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Color Guard. Tennessee Eastern District Court Judge Harry S. Mattice presided over the ceremony on Sept. 19, 2017 for about 50 new citizens.
Roughly 1,000 new citizens took the Oath of Allegiance, led by Missouri Eastern Magistrate Judge Shirley Padmore Mensah, at Saint Louis University’s Chaifetz Arena on Sept. 8, 2017. The university’s law school choir performed the national anthem and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”
Missouri Eastern District Judge Catherine D. Perry presided over a naturalization ceremony on Sept. 21, 2017 at Brentwood High School, where students led the Pledge of Allegiance and performed the national anthem. Students invited new citizens to attend a reception following the ceremony, where they were presented with congratulatory cards.
Middle school students participated in a naturalization ceremony at Northwest Jackson International Baccalaureate Middle School on Sept. 18, 2017. The school’s choir performed, while other students served as ushers and led the Pledge of Allegiance. Mississippi Southern District Magistrate Judge Linda R. Anderson presided.
The Judiciary’s coverage of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is on Twitter, @uscourts.