The 4th of July is a day of patriotism, celebration, and community. Across the nation, people line up at parades, festivals, and fireworks displays to honor their nation and enjoy the company of family and friends. But for the City of Hammond, the day holds further significance as they welcome new citizens to the country.
On Wednesday evening, the City of Hammond held their annual Naturalization Ceremony, welcoming dozens of people into United States Citizenship. With families and friends present to celebrate with these candidates, the mood was heartwarming, proud, and welcoming.
Justin Mount, Representative for Senator Joe Donnelly began with thanks, “I want to thank the league of women voters for hosting us today. I want to thank the City of Hammond, and the Port Authority for providing such a great venue. I want to thank all the friends and family members who rejoice with us today. The future of our great nation depends upon involved citizens like you.”
The sentiment was furthered with remarks from Chris Salatas, an aide to Senator Todd Young.
“My fellow Americans. Not only am I proud to call you a fellow American, I am proud to call you a fellow Hoosier," said Salatas. "It brings me great joy that you have chosen to call Indiana home. This is a state full of people who are welcoming, generous, and hard working. Thank you for continuing the success of this great state."
Events such as these are important to the City of Hammond, as it allows them to celebrate their diverse population and welcome those of all backgrounds. For Rosalie Levinson, Senior Research Professor at Valparaiso University School of Law and keynote speaker at the ceremony, not only is it inspiring to see so many out celebrating a big moment in others lives, but also helps her remember her parents and their own experiences coming to the United States.
“What a wonderful day to become a US Citizen, on the 242nd birthday to our nation. My parents, like you, came to this country as immigrants,” said Levinson. “The message of the Statue of Liberty resonated with them. ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.’ Today you are being sworn in as US Citizens. You now have the right to vote, the right to freedom of speech. The right to freedom of religion. The right to due process and to equal treatment under the law. My wish is that all of you achieve your goals and realize your dreams as my parents did in this country."
United States Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, Andrew Rodovich, presided over the ceremony, as he has for the last 30 years. As their names were read, some people smiled, some acknowledged the cheers from their family in the audience, and some wore a face that showed how serious this opportunity was to them. As the ceremony closed, their families cheered and embraced the new citizens. Everyone huddled with supporters who had come to encourage them on their journey.
“America’s greatness is rooted deeply in our rich immigrant tradition of welcoming new people,” said Mark Lopez, Congressman Pete Visclosky's Chief of Staff. “Naturalization is a culmination of the immigration process. Today we celebrate the 4th of July, our nations birthday, and a reminder of our values of personal responsibility, inclusion, and opportunity.”
Across the nation, families and friends gathered to celebrate their country, patriotism, and opportunities. In Hammond, they continued that celebration but also opened their arms to a brand new group of American Citizens. It was an emotional end to a long journey for many of the people who took part in the annual Naturalization Ceremony. Each of them now has something that hundreds of thousands of refugees and immigrants dream of, their freedom in the land of the free, home of the brave.
For more information about the City of Hammond, please visit www.gohammond.com.