“Congratulations. You are a United States citizen.”
These words echo from the stage in Redmond’s Centennial Park. The excitement and anticipation building through the crowd during this ceremony breaks in the form of wild applause and cheering.
The annual Festival of Cultures offers a diverse experience with events and booths full of specialties from many different countries. Among them are several local organization booths as well, including resources to get involved with and learn about local politics and events.
The most prominent part of the event, though, is the Citizenship Ceremony wherein participants are sworn in and receive their citizenship documentation. COCC pays for all the promotional materials printing for the Festival.
On Sept. 24, 14 immigrants from six different countries were granted their citizenship.
Brad Porterfield, who has run the festival since 2010, opened the ceremony with a speech. He mentions the festival’s tagline, “…Together we thrive…on the best of days, that’s what the United States of America represents.”
Oregon Poet Laureate Elizabeth Woody gave a keynote statement including a reading of some of her selected poems. She prefaces them by telling the crowd that her own grandparents were granted their citizenship in 1924, when the United States nationalized all Native Americans. She closes with her poem Longhouse I, a piece about culture and connection between generations of people
“It’s a celebration of our continuing diversity,” she said later. “…To me, it is wonderful to be a part of this ceremony.”
The new citizens’ families were easy to spot —all smiling as they stood around their loved ones. Some are teary-eyed, some are cracking jokes, some are small and running around the lawn, laughing—the familial celebration is very visible and moving.
The process to receive citizenship, for most, can take three-to-five years; according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and that’s only if the applicant is deemed to be an eligible candidate and able to proceed after applying.
This process includes years of interviews, applications, and quite a bit of waiting. A representative from the Department of Homeland Security touched on this point in his speech to give some background for the journey these people have taken to receive their nationalization.
After the ceremony, the crowd dispersed among the many tents and booths. Members of the Central Oregon Showcase Chorus congratulated the new citizens and their families with a performance of patriotic songs. The Festival of Cultures helped the community to come together to celebrate new citizens and the many different people in our nation.
Lily Greenstone | The Broadside