By Stephen Seitz
A man who arrived late after the official ceremony receives the citizenship oath from Judge J. Garvan Murtha.
PLYMOUTH NOTCH – Fittingly enough for the Fourth of July, 20 new Americans were sworn at a naturalization ceremony held at the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.
The new citizens came from all over the globe. Five came from Bhutan, three from Canada, two from the United Kingdom, and one each from Bosnia, Brazil, Ghana, Jamaica, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Sudan, Sweden, and Thailand.
Originally from Jamaica, Shawn Woodhouse lives in Middlebury and drives a truck for a living.
“America is a great country,” he said. “Here, you have the opportunity for better things. Right now, I just plan to enjoy the day.”
Gloria Forella Berrora emigrated from Peru.
“I just plan to live here, work, and pay my taxes,” she said.
Matthew Denhart, executive director of the Coolidge Presidential Foundation, said, “When the Declaration of Independence was ratified, eight of the 55 signers were not born in the United States. Immigrants have played a central role in developing our country. You have chosen to make the USA your home. Regardless of where you came from, we are delighted that you have made a commitment to become a citizen of the United States.”
Denhart noted that Coolidge himself favored certain restrictions on immigration. In 1924, he signed the Johnson-Reed Act, which limited immigration visas to 2 percent of the total number of each nationality in the U.S., as measured by the 1890 census. Immigrants from Asia were excluded completely. The idea of imposing such quotas originated with Vermont Republican Senator William P. Dillingham, who first proposed the idea in 1917.
In a 1921 article in Good Housekeeping, Coolidge wrote, “We are, in some sense, an immigrant nation, molded in the fires of a common experience. That common experience is our history. And it is that common experience we must hand down to our children, even as the fundamental principles of Americanism, based on righteousness, were handed down to us, in perpetuity, by the founders of our government.”
Federal Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha administered the citizenship oath.
“America is a land of immigrants,” he said. “They gave us a Constitution that made our country strong, and they gave us a Bill of Rights. Some of you will prosper more than others. We must all be aware that, though there is opportunity, there is no guarantee of the realization of that opportunity. We must never be complacent or self-satisfied. In accepting the benefits of citizenship, you also accept its obligations.
“I am proud, as an American, that you have chosen this country in which you will live and work. Welcome, my fellow Americans,” he added.
Murtha said later he was always touched by naturalization ceremonies.
“They’re a very moving event,” he said. “These ceremonies have always been that way, and I am honored to serve.”
For more information about the Coolidge Historic Site and the Coolidge Foundation’s programs visit coolidgefoundation.org.