The first bit of sunshine in days came just in time for one of Indy’s Fourth of July traditions, the Naturalization Ceremony at the President Benjamin Harrison Home, which welcomed 97 new American citizens from 37 different countries today.
Nigerian Dami Olubanji was among the 300 or so people mingling and sharing stories on the lawn of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site on Wednesday morning. Olubanji seemed to understand the joy his cousin is experiencing as the group stood and together took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.
“It’s one in a million,” Olubanji says of the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen.
U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker presided over the ceremony—the only one held at the historic downtown mansion each year—and welcomed the new citizens, their family members, and community members with a metaphor about “one big tent.” It put a smile on everyone’s face to acknowledge that we are free to celebrate each of our unique and diverse qualities, with respect and appreciation from our friends and family under “the big tent.”
Each naturalization ceremony is a celebration, says Stacy Clark, events coordinator of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site. Dozens take place in Indiana throughout year after citizenship applicants spend months filing paperwork, studying the English language and U.S. history, and passing an interview.
More than 500,000 new citizens have been welcomed into the U.S. in 2013 so far, and more than 100 ceremonies are held across the country during the week of Independence Day alone.