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Brockport celebrates Constitution Day with Naturalization Ceremony

by Courtney Deeren - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Sep 24th 2019 11:00 pm

There were 102 people gathered in the Ballroom of the Seymour College Union to officially become citizens of the United States of America on Tuesday, Sept. 17. These people were joined by their family, friends and other loved ones to celebrate the occasion. The energy of the room was optimistic and happy overall when U.S. Customs and Immigration officer Jack Fenplace approached the podium to begin the ceremony. 

Fenplace spoke about the process, saying it was not intended to be easy as “becoming a United States citizen is a conscious decision.” He went on to talk everyone through the process, going in depth about the oath portion. 

Each member was expected to repeat the oath. Fenplace said he did not care whether the people said the oath in English or their own language provided they had a language waiver. 

“You do need to say the oath, otherwise you won’t be able to be naturalized.” 

After Fenplace was finished going through the roster for the event he introduced Kris Knapp from the Buffalo passport agency. She echoed a sentiment Fenplace had brought up, encouraging each person to apply for their passport. The agency was taking applications that day after the ceremony. 

After Knapp, Marsha Eisenburg from the League of Women Voters spoke about voting and provided information on how to register to vote. Finally, a representative for the American Legion Auxiliary gave a demonstration on flag etiquette. 

“The blue field of stars must always be on the left,” the speaker said. “If you want to have the flag out at night there has to be a light on it. The flag cannot be torn or tattered, if it is you must take it down and dispose of it respectfully.” 

She also mentioned other flags hung with the American flag must be lower and to the right. The point of the presentation was to always be respectful to the flag, as the flag represents the safety and protection of U.S. citizens. 

After the demonstrations the campus ROTC color guard brought the flags up. The Brockport College-Community Chorus sang the “Star Spangled Banner.” Mayor Margay Blackman gave the opening remarks, thanking the American Democracy Project for sponsoring the event. She congratulated those becoming citizens recognizing the “numerous hurdles” they had overcome. 

Blackman then told a story about how her partner became naturalized on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. 

“You are what makes America a great country,” Blackman said.

The attendees then stood to welcome Federal Judge Jonathan W. Feldman, signaling court was in session. Feldman told a story about his grandfather, an immigrant who became naturalized. 

“Nationwide almost 40,000 other people are becoming naturalized today,” Feldman said.

Feldman said this is his favorite court proceeding to oversee, “this is the one court proceeding where everyone leaves a winner.” 

The event was full of families. Children waved miniature American flags, husbands and wives received their certificates together. Some children took pictures and videos on their smartphones of their parents or grandparents who received their certificates. One woman was so ecstatic to get her certificate she held it up proudly for the audience to see. 

The ceremony closed with the Brockport College-Community Chorus singing “America the Beautiful.” Feldman offered to stay behind with those who wanted a picture with him and their certificates. 

There were other panels throughout the day including “The Constitution and Political Parties” panel which took place at 11 a.m. in “Securing the Blessings of Liberty: The Constitution and Civil Liberties” which included lunch held at 12:30 p.m. and “Who Has More Power Over the Law? Those Who Write It, Those Who Enforce It, or Those Who Interpret It,” and “We the People:” which happened in the Grassroots Organizing and Coalition Building at 5 p.m.

The naturalization ceremony happens every year at The College at Brockport. 

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