Forty-nine individuals from 24 countries became naturalized U.S. citizens at a federal ceremony held at Loomis Chaffee on Tuesday, October 22, taking their oath of citizenship before an all-school audience that burst into cheers and applause at the conclusion of the official program.
The Olcott Center was convened as a U. S. District Court of Connecticut, with the Honorable Judge Alfred Covello ’50 presiding over the court’s special session, and Dang Phan ’79, a naturalized U.S. citizen who came to the country as a refugee from Vietnam, delivered a moving keynote address.
The standing-room-only audience included students, faculty, and staff of the school; officials of the court; and families and friends of the citizenship candidates.
Camille Fisher of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services made an official motion to the court that the candidates be admitted as citizens of the United States. Judge Covello recited the declarations of the oath of citizenship, to which the candidates responded in unison, “I will.”
“Like you, my mother and father were born in other countries,” Judge Covello remarked. “They came here because their parents saw in America the opportunity for a better life for themselves and their families.” He welcomed the group as new U.S. citizens who may now enjoy the freedoms and bear the responsibilities of citizenship.
Dang told the story his family’s desperate escape by boat from Vietnam in April 1975 during the fall of Saigon. He, his sister, and their parents left everything behind and risked their lives aboard a small, crowded boat even though they knew the vessel did not have enough fuel to reach a safe shore. Four days later, they were rescued from the waters by U.S. military personnel.
Through what Dang described as “magical” circumstances, he and his family settled in Windsor, Connecticut, and with the aid of a scholarship, Dang started ninth grade at Loomis Chaffee in the fall of that same year. He went on to graduate from Loomis cum laude, attend the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Business School, and build a career in finance.
“Where but in America can a boy, initially stripped bare of all resources, go to boarding school, Ivy League college, Harvard Business School, and a succession of pre-eminent financial institutions?” Dang asked rhetorically. “I submit humbly to you, with just pride in my own hard work, that I am but a flower that blossomed in the fertile American soil that others plowed before me, and that we must continue to till.”
After Dang’s address, Officer Fisher called out the name and country of origin each of the 49 new citizens, and they individually stepped forward to receive a certificate and pose for photos. The final recipient, a woman originally from Jamaica, accepted her certificate, hugged Judge Covello, and then lifted Dang off his feet in a celebratory embrace. The audience erupted in applause, and a sustained standing ovation punctuated the conclusion of the ceremony.
Connect to view a program from the ceremony.