Campus hosts Connecticut’s largest-ever U.S. naturalization ceremony

Woolsey Hall was the site of the state's largest naturalization ceremony, as 482 citizens were sworn in.

“America is hope, America is freedom, America is you,” said Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis of the U.S. District Court for the State of Connecticut, herself the granddaughter of immigrants, as she presided over a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Ceremony on June 1 in Woolsey Hall. With 482 new citizens sworn in, it was the largest such naturalization ceremony ever held in the state.

“When I look at this group, what I see is America,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal ’73 J.D. to the assembly of nation’s newest citizens, who hailed from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, China to the United Kingdom, Canada to India, Brazil to Sudan, and many other countries of origin.

Blumenthal, whose father fled Nazi Germany at the age of 17 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony. “We ought to be welcoming in this country because we are a nation of immigrants,” Connecticut’s senior senator said, adding that he was delighted to be able to address the group as “my fellow Americans.”

Another grandchild of immigrants, Yale President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D., welcomed the assembly and opened the ceremony. He shared the story of his father’s father and mother who came to the U.S. as immigrants from Jerusalem and Warsaw, respectively. They met on a boat bringing them to America, entered through Ellis Island, began life in their new country in the Lower East Side in Manhattan, and eventually settled and raised a family in the Bronx.

“Like many immigrants, they were poor … but they were rich in culture and rich in spirit, and they made sure my father got a great education,” Salovey said. “And then one generation later is me, and I stand before you as a professor of psychology, and I was lucky enough a few years ago to become president of one of the world’s finest universities.”

Salovey said that the Woolsey Hall ceremony expressed the “American dream” that meant so much to his own family, a dream of openness and opportunity. “I encourage you to continue to be sensitive and open to each other, to what makes this country great, which is both our differences and our similarities. The encounters with each other, with the incredible pluralism that has built this nation represent opportunities for true understanding, for true friendship.”

Noting that Woolsey Hall is the site of many important university gatherings, most recently during Commencement and alumni reunions, Salovey said that having the naturalization ceremony there had special meaning. “As a product of the American dream myself, I am inspired by it; I am committed to it.” Being with the 482 new citizens, Salovey said, was “the most important and deeply moving experience I have had” as a fellow American.

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