Faithful Famogun, left, leans forward to listen to a speaker address herself and other new citizens.
A naturalization ceremony for 38 new citizens turned into a celebration of America’s growing diversity during Wednesday’s event at Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion.
Lucas County Domestic Relations Judge Norman Zemmelman, one of several guest speakers who shared their immigrant roots, warned that all new immigrants face adversity, criticism, and misplaced blame for “stealing jobs" as well as contributing to other social ills.
PHOTO GALLERY: November's Naturalization Ceremony
Don’t believe those critics, he said.
“You represent the newest wave of immigrants that have come before you,” said Judge Zemmelman, whose family emigrated from Poland and the Ukraine. “Each American comes from different countries and different cultures. It’s this diversity that makes this country strong.”
The new citizens at Wednesday’s ceremony represented 22 different countries. Other guest speakers included Art Museum Director Brian Kennedy, who emigrated from Dublin, Ireland and Toledo Symphony Cellist Amy Chang of Taiwan, who became a citizen 13 years ago.
The event featured much pomp and circumstance: In addition to the various guest speakers, Town Crier Mike Lieber opened and closed the ceremony, Vicky Simpson Brooks offered musical performances of the national anthem and America the Beautiful.
Miyonnah Gordon, 5, left, Serinity, 3, center, and Mariah, 5, right, sit together during the ceremony.
“This ceremony proves to me that the U.S. is the best government in the world,” said new citizen Jannet Relacion Steward, a native of the Philippines. “I’m proud to be in the U.S.”
U.S. District Magistrate Vernelis Armstrong, who presided over Wednesday’s ceremony, reminded new citizens that becoming citizens of the United States doesn’t mean having to forget their culture or roots.
“You are the crème of the crop,” Magistrate Armstrong said. “You bring the very best your country has to offer.
“But don’t forget to honor your own culture and heritage. That’s what makes this country great.”