Monday, Sep 17, 2012
Surrounded by historic United States Life Saving Service structures, with the waters of Lake Michigan lapping on the beach nearby, and a symbolic flyover by the United States Coast Guard helicopter from Traverse City Air Station, 26 people from 21 countries recited the Pledge of Allegiance as new American citizens on Friday, August 24th.
About 200 people came to the event to support loved ones, observe a patriotic event, demonstrate volunteer service, and take a moment to reflect on what it really means to be American. Thanks to the cooperation of a local singer, Boy and Girl Scouts, church congregations, Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), National Park Service staff, Volunteers-in-Park (VIPs), and the weather, the first-ever naturalization ceremony at Sleeping Bear Dunes was a huge success.
“What better place to be sworn in as a new citizen of the United States than in one of our incredible national parks?” asked Dusty Shultz, the park’s superintendent. “It is my hope that by becoming United States citizens in a national park, you will hold that connection dear to you and make an effort to visit, explore and learn about as many of the almost 400 parks in the system as possible.” Shultz addressed the group after United States Magistrate Judge Ellen S. Carmody presided over court and swore in the new citizens, and USCIS District Director Mick Dedvukaj presented them certificates.
For the past several years, the NPS has been partnering with the USCIS to enhance naturalization ceremonies across the country by holding them in the places that showcase our nation’s spectacular scenic beauty and preserve our rich cultural heritage. Several new citizens mentioned how nice it was to have been invited to a national park for the event, to be outside, and to be sworn in with such a small group of people. They each received a park passport and an annual pass for the Lakeshore valid through August, 2013.
The new Americans came from Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Kosovo, Liberia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Yugoslavia.
Community members, NPS employees and VIPs involved in the event were visibly moved by the emotional impact of the citizenship ceremony especially when park friend and neighbor, Susan Pocklington, sang the National Anthem and “America, the Beautiful.” Boy Scout Troop 115 from Acme and Girl Scout Troop 440 from Traverse City presented the colors and led the Pledge of Allegiance, respectively. Cookies and lemonade were served by members of local church congregations while VIPs gave interpretive tours of the Maritime Museum and Boat House.
Plans are already being made to host more naturalization ceremonies in the future. Thanks to Eastern National for the tent and chair rentals, as well as the gifts bestowed upon the new citizens.