The white-haired Bosnian grabbed his certificate of citizenship with two hands, held it over his head and smiled broadly. A South Korean woman bowed. A long-haired woman from Ecuador posed like a beauty queen.
They were some of the 40 immigrants (from 31 countries) who took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States on Thursday morning amid camera flashes at the Maryland Historical Society. Part of a Flag Day naturalization ceremony, they renounced loyalties to "any foreign prince" and pledged to "support and defend the U.S. Constitution."
Gathered in an auditorium, the immigrants listened to the national anthem and then unfolded an oversized 1812-era flag, holding it above their heads. Lining up along the sides of the flag, they refolded it carefully. Participants received their own tiny star-spangled banners to take home.
Pavel Kipnis, 15, of Pikesville — formerly of St. Petersburg in Russia — was one of several children to take the oath. "There's a lot more opportunity here for me," Pavel said.
His parents, who were recently naturalized, left Russia for the promise of more political and economic freedom, he said.
Muammer Bicer, originally from Istanbul, Turkey, was all smiles after the brief ceremony. He too started to talk about the freedoms Americans enjoy before being cut off by a female companion who wanted to leave right away. Bicer obliged.
The last person to receive her certificate was Diane Love, who is from England. Immigration officials couldn't resist the irony; after all, Thursday's ceremony was loosely tied to War of 1812 commemorations.
An announcer called her name, saying she would get her U.S. citizenship "even though they were on the opposite side of the war."
She smiled at the reference but thought it odd that it was highlighted. "It was kind of unexpected to have that cast at me," Love said later.
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