The first thing Dean Bniskiwitz did as an American citizen was hug his 9-year-old son. Jeff Mulumba thought about the 16 years it took him to get to this point. Ashok B. Dhanuk, an immigrant originally from Nepal, pondered the privilege and responsibility of being an American citizen, while Marta Tomascewska, originally from Poland, felt a sense of finally being home.
“You feel more connected. You feel a part of something,” said Tomascewska, who came to the U.S. five years ago shortly after marrying her husband, an American citizen. This was the final step in truly starting a life here, she said.
“Now I am here not as a guest but as a citizen,” she said.
It was a sentiment Tomascewska shared with 42 other people whose various paths became American stories when they were sworn in as citizens at a naturalization ceremony in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). In front of friends, family, and members of the Harvard community, they raised their right hands and swore an oath of allegiance to the U.S., pledging to uphold its ideals and carry out their new civic responsibilities.
It was the first citizenship ceremony held at HKS and believed to be the first at Harvard, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which oversees the process.
Many Harvard community members took part in the ceremony, from the ROTC student who brought in the U.S. flag as part of the color guard from Harvard, MIT, and Tufts to the student who sang the national anthem to the judge presiding over the ceremony.
The newly minted citizens have lived in the U.S. between five years and more than 20. They come from 25 countries, representing almost every continent, including South America, Central America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
They embody the melting pot the U.S. is known as, with countries of origin ranging from Albania to Colombia to Guatemala to the Netherlands. And like so many before them they originally came for many reasons — a better life, a better job, a spouse. Many said they were taking the oath to finally became a full part of their adopted home and join family members, including siblings and children, who were already U.S. citizens.