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New Citizens Celebrate Becoming Americans

Fifty new citizens from 23 different countries celebrated becoming Americans on Friday, Oct. 28, at Saint Louis University’s School of Law, along with their friends and families.

Naturalization ceremony

Fifty of America's newest citizens take the oath of allegiance during the naturalization ceremony in Scott Hall. Photo by Tom Birmingham

Michael Wolff, J.D., dean of the School of Law, gave the welcoming address at the naturalization ceremony, which he deemed an “opportunity to reaffirm our faith in the American dream,” and commented on his own background as a descendent of immigrants from different countries and ideologies.

“We have no common national origin or ethnicity that forms our shared identity as Americans,” he said. “Instead, our identity has been forged by the rule of law and by our common experience and faithfulness to the law that seeks to guarantee liberty, equality of opportunity and a functioning civil society.”

LeAnn Upton, an administrative assistant in the legal clinics, led a singing group in the national anthem before the new citizens took their oath of allegiance. The musical group was made up of students Andrea Feitsam, Rachel Jag, Laura Marsh, Monique McNutt, Shatrasha Stone, Mark Timmerman and Maggie Hummel (cellist).

One of the naturalization participants was Ghosia Zafar, a pharmacist who came to the U.S. five years ago from Pakistan, who is married and has a two-year-old daughter.

Zafar said the ceremony left her "beyond expression."  She added, "I have been waiting for this moment for a long time.  It is a really happy moment."

Another new citizen was Sefik Rizvanovic, from Bosnia-Herzegovina, who has lived in St. Louis 18 years and is co-owner of a trucking company. He was especially thrilled because his birthday is Oct. 29, the day after the citizenship ceremony.

"This was my big surprise for my birthday. It's a big day for me today, and a big day tomorrow.  I am really happy," Rizvanovic said.

Wolff encouraged the participants’ families and friends in attendance to go online and take the citizenship practice test themselves.

“When you pass, you can say to your loved one here: ‘I am as qualified to be a citizen of this great country as you are.’ If you fail, I bet that one of these new citizens will help you out.”