By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE – Honorable Jeh C. Johnson, Former Secretary of Homeland Security was involved with innumerous, critical tasks during his career; however, none were more important or rewarding than his one focused upon Naturalization Ceremonies.
“My favorite thing to do was Naturalization Ceremonies, Johnson, originally from Dutchess County and a graduate of Roy C. Ketcham High School, told guests Friday afternoon inside of the Family Partnership Center where the area’s Naturalization Ceremony was taking place.
“This is a very interesting day for all of you; from the moment you walk out of here, you will be fundamentally different, and now when someone looks at your dress, listens to the way you speak or anything that is different about you, and they ask you where you are from, you get to say from here: The United States.”
127 people, representing 45 countries, were granted that privilege in Dutchess County. Each one, accompanied by family and friends, filled the Family Partnership Center for the pack-filled program. They were welcomed in by the Honorable Marcus J. Molinaro, Dutchess County Executive.
“Every generation has been made better because we are a nation that welcomes people from all over,” affirmed an energized Molinaro, who turned to the soon-to-be citizens, “You make this country better with what you bring to it.”
Following a moving Presentation of Colors by the Color Guard of the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office as well as a patriotic National Anthem, sung by Arlington High School junior, Ryan Flynn, all new citizens proudly raised their right hands and recited the Oath of Allegiance. New citizens were then presented with paperwork, attesting to their huge accomplishments.
“This is just so very exciting; it is going to open up a whole lot of new opportunities,” said a smiling Rose Susu, who resides in Hopewell Junction and is originally from Ghana. “I’m just so very grateful.”
Lance Brown of Poughkeepsie, and originally from Jamaica, resonated similar sentiments of joy at the conclusion of the ceremony.
“Today is just so very special,” said Brown. “It’s hard to put into words how happy I am right now.”
And so the journey begins for 127 new Dutchess County citizens. The hard work, perseverance and dedication to be citizens all paid off Friday. Each also realizes his or her new title carries with it hefty responsibility.
”Everyone sitting in this room serves you, but you need to give something back as well,” said Johnson in his Keynote Address. “Voting involves so much, and requires an understanding of what our great country is all about; being a citizen means enjoying our great democracy as well as giving to it,” Referring to a sentiment relayed by former President Ronald Reagan, he added, “Being a United States citizen is very unique, different than any other country; when you come to the United States and take an oath, you become something extraordinary: an American.”