The weather may have been gray and depressing outside, but inside Robsham Theater, there was an atmosphere of hope and optimism.
On Thursday, Mar. 21, Boston College hosted a naturalization ceremony for 94 new citizens as part of BC's Sesquicentennial Celebration. The ceremony, hosted by the Graduate School of Social Work, invited 94 immigrants from 42 different countries to take the oath of citizenship.
The ceremony also hit close to home with one of BC's own taking the oath of citzenship. The family of Chuda Rijal, A&S '16, was among the first refugees to come to the United States from Bhutan. Rijal was born in a refugee camp in Nepal, and due to his family's strong belief in education, made it all the way to BC.
After an introductory prayer by Terrence P. Devino, S.J., the 100 new citizens were administered the official oath of allegiance. Robsham Theater transformed into an official session of court in order for the oath to be administered by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The Honorable George A. O'Toole Jr., BC '69 and parent '09 and '11, talked to the new citizens after the official oath and emphasized that their citizenship is now "infused with a special vitality" because they became citizens as a result of choice, not as accident of birth. O'Toole explained that the beauty of American citizenship is that there are no levels or degrees of being a citizen; every citizenship is considered equal, pure and valuable.
O'Toole then proceeded to name each one of the 42 nationalities represented by the new citizens, including Morocco, Somalia, Congo, France, Turkey and Vietnam. In a particularly heartwarming moment, the judge called out each country, and its citizens proudly stood and waved American flags along with other natives.
It was a poignant reminder of the pride that immigrants feel for their native country while embracing their new American home. O'Toole addressed this, encouraging the new citizens to "treasure your heritage, and share generously with the rest of us, but don't be limited," he said. "We have a common future."
Fr. Leahy, president of BC, then addressed the new citizens, saying that it was a special day for BC because it reminded him of two important things: roots and promise. The event was meant to celebrate the importance of roots at BC while celebrating the University's 150th anniversary.
Leahy said that BC is especially proud to host the ceremony since the University was originally founded in 1863 to serve the sons of immigrants: "BC is a university that grew out of an immigrant past.... we all have roots," Leahy said. He said the ceremony also spoke of promise, saying that these citizens were "animated and sustained by promise of a better life."
Leahy also emphasized the responsibility that comes with their new promise of citizenship. "You have a responsibility on Earth to do good. We are all called to help make this world a better place," he said.
The new citizens were then showed video remarks from President Obama, reminding them that "with privileges of citizenship comes great responsibility. You have the opportunity to enrich this country and help write the next great chapter in history," he said.
BC bOp!, a student jazz ensemble, played patriotic songs throughout the event. The ceremony was hosted by the Graduate School of Social Work's Immigration Integration Lab, which aims to help foreign nationals make a successful transition to American society.
Photos by Meghan Smith/Gavel Media.