BANGOR, Maine — Twenty-four men and women from nine nations took the oath of allegiance to become American citizens during a naturalization ceremony Friday morning at the Bangor Federal Building. The new citizens have received the right to vote just in time to participate in next week’s elections.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock presided over the ceremony along with U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuck and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Louis Kornreich.
Those who came to take the oath of allegiance hailed from a wide range of nations, including Thailand, Cambodia, Great Britain and Germany. The new citizens included couples, families and individuals, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades.
Woodcock thanked them for adding “a much-needed dignity and distinction to Bangor,” and reminded citizens old and new of their rights and responsibilities as Americans.
“In America, it does not matter who you were, but who you are. You are free to do what you want, say what you want and be who you want to be. Freedom is the oxygen of America’s greatness, and we have an historical obligation to preserve this freedom so that it may be passed on to the future,” Woodcock said
His words took on special significance in light of the coming election.
Janet Perkins, a former Canadian who became naturalized after living in the United States for several years, commented on participation in the voting process
“Voting is a right that I ought to have sought long ago,” she said. “You need to vote what you feel in this country, and you have the right to. If you don’t seek the right to vote for what you believe, you can’t complain.”
Aside from citizenship rights, the new Americans also have gained a sense of inclusion in the nation they now officially call home. Mirna Senter, a resident of the Bangor area who first left Mexico as an international student of English in 1985, described her feelings on naturalization.
“I am happy and excited to become an American citizen because I will feel more of a part of the country and the community,” she said. “When you are not a citizen, you always feel like a bit of an outsider. Now I am a part of it all.”
The audience included representatives of Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Rep. Michael Michaud. Also present amid supportive friends and family members were five members of the Esther Eayres chapter of Daughters of the Revolution in Orono and two members of the Frances Dighton Williams chapter in Bangor, in attendance to honor the nation’s immigrant roots. Two representatives from the League of Women Voters were on hand to aid in the proceedings and to answer questions and issue voter registration cards to the new citizens after the ceremony.