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Monday, June 17, 2024

Raise Your Right Hand: Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Naturalization Ceremony on the lawn of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site

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In 2003, the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site (BHPS) partnered with the Federal Courts to begin what has become an annual tradition. Over the past two decades, over 1500+ individuals have been naturalized on the grounds of BHPS.

“It’s one of the most moving civic ceremonies,” shares Charles Hyde, President and CEO of BHPS. “It’s a renewal of vows, and it’s an honor and privilege to host such a meaningful event.”

Julio Zepeda, BHPS Facilities Manager, adds, “It’s great for us to host this event, as it aligns with our mission.” Their mission is: to promote patriotism and citizenship through appropriate educational activities.

Ninety-eight individuals representing thirty-nine countries took the oath to become U.S. citizens in a crowded tent on the south lawn of the home of President Benjamin Harrison.

The Honorable Sarah Evans Barker led the ceremony. Speakers included U.S. Attorney Zachary Myers of the Southern District of Indiana, Mayor Joe Hogsett, Kimball Harrison Morsman, great-great-grandson of our 23rd U.S. President Benjamin Harrison, and Rabbi Dennis Sasso.

On his last day before retirement from Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, Rabbi Sasso took his oath to become a U.S. citizen thirty-six years ago. Born and raised in Panama, his family had escaped to the Caribbean to escape persecution from the countries of Spain and Portugal during the 1700s.

“There are three speeches: the one you prepare, the one you give, and the one you wish you had given,” shared Rabbi Sasso ahead of the ceremony. Whatever his notes may have been, he delivered. Volunteers from the Daughters of the American Revolution Caroline Scott Harrison Chapter provided the flags for our newly appointed citizens and donated cookies and lemonade for the reception.

“Whatever special dreams you had that inspired your efforts and focused your energies and strengthened your resolve — today you’ve finally reached your goal, and so here you are. Hooray for all of you!” said Judge Sarah Evans Barker during her opening comments.

Adding, “So whatever brought you here, whatever your own journey, and wherever it will take you, know that you are always welcome here and that you belong here. I say again: you are welcome here, and you belong here.”

Two-hundred and forty-seven years ago, the preamble to the Constitution was written:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—

“You remind us to be grateful and not to sweat the small stuff as you model a special optimism,” states Judge Evans Barker. “If we are lucky, we will come to know you as friends. We are better people with you than without you. “

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