“I pledge allegiance to the flag…” rang out the voices of 30 children who had become citizens of the United States just moments before the patriotic ceremony held at the Queens Center Mall.
The young men and women were administered the Oath of Allegiance to the United States in the 11th Annual Citizenship Ceremony held by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It was an exciting day for the children who represented 16 countries, ranging from Haiti to Thailand.
As children anxiously fiddled with their American flags, Dawn Simon, senior marketing manager of Queens Center, described “one of the best events” at the mall, saying that it is “driven, strong, and purposeful… and encapsulates Queens’ ethnic diversity.”
Joseph Cardinale, field office director, was the master of ceremonies. While he led the children, who ranged in age from five to 15, in proudly waving their flags, he reminded them that this is “once in a lifetime, so make the most out of it, make the best out of it.”
Wenxu Chen, 14, realizes the importance of Cardinale’s message. “This day is very important,” he said, adding that he will never forget it. Originally from China, Chen has been in this country for six years. Although he was admittedly very nervous today, he still had fun, a sentiment that would probably resound with all of the other children who took part in the ceremony.
The patriotic event included a keynote address from Borough President Helen Marshall, herself the daughter of Guyanese immigrants. She repeated a common theme, telling the children to make sure that they go forth and serve the country that is now officially theirs.
“We want to encourage you to continue in the spirit of giving back to your community through service and volunteering, and to never, ever give up your dreams,” said Simon in her welcoming remarks.
The newly minted young citizens were even shown a congratulatory message from President Barack Obama, who urged them to “keep the beacon that is America burning bright for the world to see.”
“U.S. citizenship is the best gift that the Citizenship and Immigration Services can bestow upon someone, so we value having that authority,” said Shyconia Burden-Noten, Community Relations Officer of the USCIS. “Just the look on the faces of the citizens. It’s phenomenal. It makes you proud to be an American.”