Mount Rushmore helps welcome new group of American citizens during naturalization ceremony
KEYSTONE, S.D.– In the shadow of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the focus today was not on Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, or Lincoln, but the more than 100 people sitting in the stands of the amphitheater, who officially became naturalized American citizens.
“It is not something I can explain but I feel happy,” one resident said. “And thankful for this country and everything it gives me.”
With over 40 different countries and cultures represented in the crowd, they join the hundreds of millions of fellow citizens that shape the country.
“They bring all of the experience, and all of their wealth, and all of their job-making capability. And they join our community,” Associate Director of Field Operations for the United States Citizen and Immigration Services Michael Valverde said. “They are full members of the community as of today. And it is like I said, a moment where we can actually see our country get a little bit bigger. And absorb all of that and become a little stronger, a little smarter, and a little more prosperous.”
Each citizen had a story to tell about their path to today. Whether it took them twenty years, or since they were twenty years old.
And when the ceremony was over, they left the National Memorial with a new outlook and title.
“I have been waiting for a long time, and it just feels like I can finally identify as an American,” another citizen said. It feels exciting, I feel wonderful. I feel American.”
And for Judge Roberto Lange, who presided over his first Mount Rushmore ceremony, he was reminded of his own family’s journey.
“I hope we as a society can remember that we all – unless we are Native American – descended from people who came to this country from somewhere else. As immigrants,” he explained. “I am from a family of German immigrants who left for better opportunity here in the United States, and these people are doing the same. And I hope we can all welcome them as us citizens – which they are – on par with all of us.”