Naturalization Ceremony highlights Celebrate America festivities
By Anjelicia Bruton
Jerry Wench couldn’t help getting a little choked up as U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles A. Stampelos conducted naturalization for nine new American citizens on Monday.
Just 11 years ago, he watched as his friend, Joseph McCory had the same experience on the stage at Tom Brown Park.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” Wench said.
The ceremony was the highlight of the city’s annual Celebrate America festivities on July 4.
Syamala Velichety and Krishna Tallapragada, a married couple from India, were among the ones who became American in front of a sparse afternoon crowd. Velichety was first to come to Tallahassee in 2003 and her husband joined her three years later.
Both came to this country seeking better employment opportunities, they said. They’ve enjoyed even more.
“We get to see more diversity here and it’s nice,” Velichety said.
In the midst of the festivities, U.S. military representatives marched out in front of the stage ready to begin the naturalization ceremony. The new Americans at the judge’s instructions, repeated the pledge of allegiance. The audience joined in.
Following the ceremony, Jacob’s Ladder, a local band, performed a powerful rendition of “God Bless America.”
Ingo Wiedenhoever, a physics professor at FSU, was born in Germany and moved to the United States in 1997 to work for two years and decided to stay.
“I grew up in a free country with a democracy and I want to thank America for protecting that because during the Cold War we knew who was having our back to defend freedom in Europe,” Wiedenhoever said.
“I’m proud to be an American now and it is a country that has always treated me and my family very well and given us opportunity,” Wiedenhover said.
Patriotism was obvious around the park, as many donned their red, white and blue. Musical performances got many on their feet. There were also art exhibits that gave children the opportunity to participate in face-painting creating a family-friendly environment.
But the naturalization ceremony clearly was the attraction, many in the crowd expressing emotions.
Onlooker Rosali Carlin said the ceremony was a good example of what America stands for, despite the endless conversations about immigration in politics.
“It makes me proud because these people obviously went through a lot to become American citizens,” she said. “They studied, they worked hard, I know it cost money and it meant that much for them to do it.”