“Take one moment and look around at the people next to you. Notice the incredible diversity in this room. In spite of all our differences, though, we all share one thing in common: Not a single person looked around the room when I asked.”
The tension in the room broke as Michael Tolhurst’s joke warmed up the crowd. On July 28, the Sterling Heights Public Library hosted its annual naturalization ceremony for the eight consecutive year, and 45 immigrants from 21 different countries took the oath of allegiance in order to become legal citizens of the United States.
It was a momentous occasion, to say the least.
“Today is the culmination of all your efforts. You may not always succeed at everything you try, but you have succeeded today. Because of you, your children and your grandchildren will know what hard work and success look like.” Tolhurst concluded his opening remarks, and the ceremony began.
First, Veterans of Foreign War Post 6250 carried out the presentation of the colors. Then the Memorial Signing Choir beautifully performed the national anthem in American Sign Language.
Next, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael C. Taylor took the podium, declaring, “We are not just diverse in skin color, ideology or religion. We have people who are blind, who are deaf, who deal with various struggles and who have a variety of talents. You are who you are, and your uniqueness is part of what makes this the greatest country in the world.”
Taylor and others recounted inspirational stories, including the story of Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish-born immigrant who went on to found Chobani Yogurt and become a billionaire.
“You and your children may go on to become doctors or lawyers, to create new medicines, new businesses, or new technologies. You came here today with your own identity, and you will never lose that—but we hope you’ll melt into our great melting pot and enjoy all of the benefits and responsibilities that come with being a United States citizen,” said Taylor.
Magistrate Judge David R. Grand then distributed Certificates of Naturalization to all 45 new citizens. The Memorial Signing Choir performed a rendition of “America the Beautiful” that left everyone misty-eyed. And goosebumps erupted on every arm when the whole crowd—new citizens, their families, judges, veterans, dignitaries and members of the public—finally stood together to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
One theme was repeated throughout the ceremony: Diversity is what makes America strong. No matter what language we speak, what faith we practice, or where our ancestors hail from, together we can work toward making the American dream a reality for everyone.
OneMacomb is an organization that celebrates multicultural diversity in Macomb County. To learn more about OneMacomb and the resources they offer, click here.
Jenna Russell is a summer intern for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. She is a senior at Oakland University.