The Fourth of July typically consists of barbecues and fireworks for most Americans. But it meant much more for 52 candidates who took their Oath of Allegiance to become American citizens this July 4 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
This year’s Naturalization Ceremony took place in front of Washington’s mansion and featured citizenship candidates from 42 countries, including 11 service members.
“I came to America for a better opportunity and a better lifestyle,” said Sanam Sherpuja, a Marine stationed at Quantico. Sherpuja came to America from Nepal in 2017. He said he worked a regular job in Baltimore but wanted to join the military to “change [his] life” and become a citizen.
Another new citizen, Arlington resident Olga Oliberos, came to the country five years ago after meeting her husband in her home country of Colombia. “I feel so proud to become a U.S. citizen. This ceremony is very special,” she said after the ceremony.
Oliberos works for the Arlington Housing Corporation as a resident services manager, helping provide affordable housing to low-income residents.
“This is the real country of opportunity, and I am very grateful and feel honored to be a part of this country,” Oliberos added.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was one of several speakers in attendance who addressed the candidates.
“You’ve completed a process that may be difficult, but is fundamentally American," Tellen told the nation's newest citizens.
The secretary explained that the oath is similar to the ones taken by herself and the president. “No matter your occupation or how long you’ve been in the United States, we bear the same privileges and responsibilities of our most important title: citizen,” Yellen said.
Analucia Araujo, also of Arlington, came to Northern Virginia in 2008 to teach history at Howard University in D.C. Now, 14 years later, she is a U.S. citizen.
“Being a citizen to me is to have the opportunity to participate in U.S. life. It is important because it is my home,” she said after the ceremony.
Araujo came to the U.S. via Canada but is originally from Brazil. She said the U.S. is not only where she lives and is now a citizen, but it's also a part of what she studies and teaches. Araujo’s expertise is in the history of the Atlantic Slave Trade, even writing about Mount Vernon and its history with enslaved people in the past.
A Naturalization Ceremony is put on each year by Mount Vernon and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). From July 1-8, USCIS helps organize naturalization ceremonies at monuments across the country, celebrating the birth of the United States and those finishing their journey to citizenship.