Saint Louis University celebrated with 798 individuals from more than 100 different
countries as they became American citizens at a Naturalization Ceremony on Friday,
Sept. 8, at Chaifetz Arena, in front of their friends and families.
The ceremony was put on by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), with assistance from SLU and
the School of Law.
University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., gave the opening address. He reminded
the new citizens that in becoming Americans, they do not abandon their individual
histories and respective cultures, and that those unique stories become part of the
“It is a cause for a joyous celebration," Pestello said. "Our united nature is not
achieved because we are all the same. We are united in light of our differences, not
despite them. You are welcome here — in this arena, in this city, and in this country."
School of Law dean William P. Johnson, J.D., gave the keynote address, commenting
on the radical ideas contained in the Declaration of Independence and how those ideas
contributed to the development of international human rights and international law
intended to protect the rights of vulnerable individuals.
"America is not perfect; no country is perfect. Any proclamation of greatness should
be made with a sense of humility and a mindfulness of mistakes we have made," Johnson
said. "And yet, America is great. It is a great nation because of the rights of life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a great nation because it is the land
of opportunity. America is great because of its creation of and commitment to the
rule of law and fundamental principles of civil rights and liberal democracy.
America’s greatness is dynamic, created by the ongoing influx of so many cultural
traditions. America continues to be great because of you and the new Americans who
came before you."
William P. Johnson, J.D., dean of Saint Louis University School of Law
"But America’s greatness is more complex than that, because America’s greatness is
dynamic, created by the ongoing influx of so many cultural traditions," Johnson continued.
"America continues to be great because of you and the new Americans who came before
The Hon. Shirley P. Mensah, U.S. magistrate judge for the Eastern District of Missouri,
then administered the Oath of Allegiance, which was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance
and the presentation of certificates of citizenship by USCIS.
LeAnn Upton, office assistant in the School of Law’s Legal Clinics, led the Law School
Choir in renditions of “My Country ‘tis of Thee” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and
nearly 20 other law students served as greeters and ushers led by clinic instructor
John Ammann, J.D., McDonnell Professor of Justice in American Society.
“I have loved living in the U.S. and am excited to be able to make my citizenship
official,” said Enrica Ferrario, a retail sales manager from Bergamo, Italy, and one
of the new American citizens naturalized. “It was a really moving ceremony, and it
felt very special to be there with so many others becoming naturalized.
“For many years I had debated about becoming a U.S. citizen, and in many ways I felt
like I already was one after living here for more than 30 years,” Ferrario continued.
“However, I could not vote during elections, and I really wanted my voice to be heard.
I’m looking forward to casting my first ballot in an upcoming election!”
Ferrario met her husband Scott, a St. Louis native, while he was in the U.S. Navy
stationed in Sardenia, Italy, and they relocated after he completed his tour. Their
daughter, Camilla Ferrario Hall, graduated from SLU in 2006 (A&S) before working for
several years in the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business.
Another SLU connection: vice president, CIO and chief innovation officer David Hakanson's
wife Luciene, a native of Brazil, was also among those naturalized.
Hosting naturalization ceremonies every semester has become a long-standing tradition
at Saint Louis University School of Law. The next one, which will be smaller in scope,
will take place at 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at Scott Hall, and is open to the public.