Founding Fathers, Faith, and Freedom Focus of U.S. Citizenship Ceremony for Children

By Penny Starr | September 3, 2009 | 5:28 PM EDT

Dressed in period costumes, from left, a slave, a Civil War soldier, a physician and Mrs. George Washington, held up placards that spelled out the oath the children took. ( Starr)

( – Fifty-eight children from 26 countries swore an oath to become citizens of the United States in a ceremony Thursday at Mt. Vernon, the first president’s Virginia home. The children, ranging in age from one to 17, were granted citizenship because they were adopted by U.S. citizens or their parents are naturalized citizens.
The ceremony was marked by references to the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, the freedoms guaranteed citizens by the Constitution, and acknowledgment of God’s role in the nation’s traditions.
“What a fitting place to celebrate your citizenship,” said Sarah Taylor, district director, Washington District, of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Where better than the home of our first president?

“Today, you will take an oath to celebrate your citizenship,” Taylor said. “The oath that most of your parents took is pretty complex, so we have created a special children’s oath that expresses the same ideas just using different words.” 
Men and women in period dress portraying Martha Washington, an African slave, an African American Revolutionary War soldier and Washington’s good friend and personal physician, Dr. James Craik, spoke about their love for their country and the important role immigrants play in shaping America.
“General Washington sends his very best regards,” Mrs. Washington said. “He’s up building our new capitol city now, but when I told him you were coming, he said, ‘Tell the children – the little folk, as he says – that I am so glad to welcome them as new citizens.’”
“Our forefathers fought to create a country with the rights of justice and liberty for all,” the soldier said.

Iliya Davarfara, 5, raises his right hand to take the oath of U.S. citizenship at a ceremony Thursday at Mt. Vernon. ( Starr)

Then children raised their right hand – some with the help of their parents – and recited the following four-sentence oath, which was written on placards held up by the historic figures.
“I promise to love this country. I promise to defend her against her enemies. I am proud to be an American. So help me God.”
The children then recited the “Pledge of Allegiance,” followed by the distribution of certificates of citizenship to each child.
Iliya Davarfara, 5, whose Iranian father is a naturalized U.S. citizen, squirmed in his seat like most of the youngsters at the event. When it came time to say his oath, however, he pushed up his red, white, and blue sunglasses, put down his camera, held up his right hand and recited the oath.

Andy Nguyen, 13, left, from Vietnam, and Mandirat Singh, 11, from India, became U.S. citizens on Thursday. ( Starr)

Six-year-old Catherine Lu Ping Bassett Boyton, who was born in China and lives with her adoptive parents in Lynchburg, Va., memorized the Pledge of Allegiance before the event and beamed with pride as she got her certificate.
Aside from Iran and China, the countries represented at the ceremony were Bolivia, Cambodia, Canada, Columbia, Cuba, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.