By Evan Johnson
BRANDON—They came from Thailand, Somalia, the Philippines, Canada, Sweden, Mali, Bhutan and more, but at the end of the naturalization ceremony at the Neshobe School in Brandon on Wednesday, May 10, 62 candidates from 29 countries left as Americans.
The event on Wednesday afternoon filled the school auditorium with elected representatives, area residents, students and teachers. Rep. Peter Welch was the first to welcome the newest citizens.
“We say thank you, we say we welcome you and we say you are going to make our strong country stronger,” he said.
Welch also welcomed the Neshobe students to what he called a “glorious day.”
“They are learning what citizenship is all about,” he said. “It’s responsibility and it’s welcoming others to our country who are willing to undertake the responsibility.”
Judge Colleen Brown, who administered the oath, described the gravity of the day’s occasion.
“It is by welcoming and integratig people from around the world, the United States has become the country it is today,” she said.
Rosalind Gramling first came to the United States from the United Kingdom when she was 5 years old. At 55, the physical therapist from South Burlington said the current political climate made her want to take on a greater responsibility.
“The past election was the most important factor,” she said. “I wanted to be able to vote.”
Devi Dahal came to the United States from Bhutan in 2011, fleeing civil unrest with her family. She now lives in Burlington and works at the University Medical Center. “I’m very happy to become a citizen,” the 42-year-old said following the ceremony. “I love this country. I’ll help this country if I need to.”
Indra Khatiwoda of Essex lived in Bhutan and then Nepal before arriving in Vermont. The 37-year-old has found work at Global Foundries and also works in school transportation. Standing outside with his family following the ceremony, Khatiwoda said there was no where else he’d rather be.
“This is a safe place,” he said. “Right now, I’m going home to celebrate.”
The following the administration of the Oath of Allegiance, Neshobe fifth- and sixth-grade students sang songs and recited the preamble to the Constitution of the United States.
The event featured musical performances from the Maiden Vermont a capella group and Dr. Francois Clemmons, a professor emeritus from Middlebury College, who led the room in a rendition of Woodie Guthrie’s classic folk song, “This Land is Your Land.”
He sang the first two verses, then looked up at the crowd before him and smiled.
“Why don’t you sing it with me?” he said.
Then the new citizens all sang together.
Photo by Evan Johnson
A group of 62 candidates from 29 countries recite the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalizaton ceremony at the Neshobe School in Brandon, Wednesday, May 10.