By Alan J. Keays
RUTLAND — Edward Thairu had been a doctor in Kenya. He now calls Vermont home and is studying to be a cardiologist in the United States.
On Tuesday, Aug. 8, he joined 70 other people from 26 countries on the stage of the Paramount Theatre in downtown Rutland to take the Oath of Allegiance and become U.S. citizens.
“The values that are shared here are wonderful,” Thairu, 32, of Burlington, said of the United States after the naturalization ceremony.
Holding a certificate of citizenship handed to him after taking the oath, Thairu added, “It feels great to be an American, and it gives hope for a brighter future.”
The 71 new citizens came from around the globe, including Somalia, the United Kingdom, Moldova, France, South Korea, China, Myanmar, Hungary, Canada, El Salvador and Costa Rica.
A couple, ages 87 and 90, from Bhutan also became Americans at the ceremony.
Among those taking the oath were educators and cooks, businesspeople and cashiers.
And what would a celebration be without a deejay?
Toni Basanta, of Cuba, now lives in Fairfax and states on his business card that he’s a “DJ for all kind of parties.”
“It’s been a dream come true, and it’s very good to be true,” Basanta, 62, said of becoming a U.S. citizen about 10 years after first arriving in the country.
The ceremony Tuesday is one of about two dozen taking place in Vermont this year.
Many are in federal courthouses, rotating among Burlington, Brattleboro and Rutland. Others are held outside the courtroom walls, at locations including the President Calvin Coolidge Historic Site in Plymouth and the campus of Castleton University.
Rutland Mayor David Allaire welcomed the new citizens taking part in Tuesday’s ceremony in the theater, which was presided over by Judge Colleen Brown, a federal bankruptcy judge in Vermont.
“I’m particularly fond of naturalizations held in the community like this one because we are welcoming you as new citizens not just to the United States but to our communities,” Brown told the roughly 300 people gathered in the theater.
Eric Mallette, the theater’s programming director, said he was proud that the first steps for the new citizens would be on the stage of the century-old facility. “Regardless of gender, ethnicity or religious belief, theater brings us together. For that moment an audience shares a unique bond, a singular goal of seeking joy,” he told the crowd. “We are proudly in the pursuit of happiness business.”
The crowd included friends and family of those set to become citizens. Some waved small American flags as the name and country of each new U.S. citizen was read.
A group of volunteers from Windham County People Power held signs outside the theater, welcoming the new Americans as they walked out of the ceremony.
“Congratulations New Citizens!” read one of the signs.
Many of the new citizens, proudly displaying their citizenship certificates, posed for photos with the group members and their signs.
Brown, in her remarks, spoke of the diversity the new citizens bring to the country. “It is by welcoming and integrating people from around the world that the United States has become the vibrant country it is today,” she said, referring to the nation as a “collage.”
“The richness of the U.S. lies in its ability to be simultaneously a single country and also a collection of many distinct traditions, histories and cultures,” the judge added. “The magic of both a collage and this country is that when we put all the pieces together the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.”
Brown also encouraged the new citizens to vote, a right they now possess. The League of Women Voters staffed a table after the ceremony with voter registration forms.
“In order for democracy to work,” the judge told the new Americans, “everyone must participate.”
By Alan J. Keays, VTDigger
Volunteers with Windham County People Power hold signs Tuesday outside the Paramount Theatre in Rutland greeting new U.S. citizens after a naturalization ceremony.