GAITHERSBURG – Forty-six people from 29 countries took the Oath of Citizenship on Sunday during the 34th annual Celebrate! Gaithersburg festival, an event attended by several thousand people.
The festival began at noon with a naturalization ceremony for several local residents who had completed the requirements to attain United States citizenship.
“It’s a great achievement, now I’m aligned with all three of them,” said Daniela Goina, a Romanian immigrant who lives in Potomac, referring to her husband and two children. “It’s easier to travel and find good jobs.”
Goina said her children enjoy visiting the Gaithersburg Train Museum.
“I’ve been in the United States for 25 years, so to be able to be a citizen of this country after living here so long, to me, is a great achievement,” said Arial Abraham, who came to the United States from war-torn Eritrea. “I’m happy I love this country, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do what I want to do.”
“I’ve been here since 2001, I originally only came here for a year,” said Rockville resident Clive Jerram, an immigrant from the United Kingdom. “But I met a nice American girl, decided to settle down and so I thought it was about time I get this done. I’m very happy to have done it; it’s a great place to be.”
Jerram said anti-immigrant rhetoric in the presidential campaign concerned him.
“It seems fairly extreme this time around,” Jerram said. “But if you’re concerned about what’s happening in the country, you should do something about it, rather than just complain, and it’s good to see that a lot of people are trying to change things for the better.”
Mayor Jud Ashman said presiding over the ceremony is “one of the best parts” of his job.
“It is a real joy to see you all reach the end of this journey and become citizens of the greatest country in the world in the greatest city in the world,” he said.
In his introductory remarks, Rep. John Delaney (D-6) told those gathered before him, “It is so important for you, as you take this important step, to also commit to yourself, and on behalf of your families and on behalf of your other citizens, to be part of our democracy.”
After an official from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services administered the oath to all of the new citizens en masse, they were each called up to receive a certificate of citizenship.
“Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said ‘The only title in our entire democracy that is superior to the title of President is the title of Citizen,’” said Council member Ryan Spiegel.
“But if the most vaunted title in our nation is that of citizen, then it is equally true that the highest degree of citizenship is the one that all of you exemplify here today, for it is not by mere accident of birth or inheritance, but by the virtue of your sustained effort, your conscious choice, that you have sought out the privileges and responsibilities of being a United States Citizen.”
County Council member Sidney Katz (D-3) and Del. Kumar Barve (D-17) attended the ceremony. The League of Women Voters of Montgomery County provided voter registration forms.
The festival’s entertainment included local bands in a “Battle of the Decades.” The band The Fabulous Hubcaps played 1970s music, The Reagan Years played music from the 1980s, while As If represented the 1990s.
Gaithersburg’s Fourth of July fireworks display will be held at the Bohrer Activity Center this year, rather than on the Montgomery County Fairgrounds as it has in past years. It also served as an opportunity for local restaurants and other merchants to display their wares.