Fifty people from 22 countries became U.S. citizens in a ceremony at Craneway Pavilion Thursday afternoon.
Betty Reid Soskin, the 94-year-old ranger at Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, delivered the keynote speech for the special naturalization ceremony. She highlighted the beauty and occasional messiness of an imperfect but evolving democracy.
While more than 1,000 people are naturalized every two weeks at Oakland Paramount Theater, the more intimate annual event at Craneway is held in honor of Women’s History Month and attended by Rosie the Riveters.
The new U.S. citizens beamed upon watching a prerecorded video of President Obama welcoming them. Members of TOSCA (Golden Gate Symphony Chorus) volunteered to participate in the ceremony, singing Woodie Guthrie’s “This land is your land.”
Gerrsson Garcia Hernandez (pictured below), 33, a Richmond resident and chemical production supervisor at a local company, came from Guatemala 10 years ago and scored his first job. He lives with his wife and young daughter and said he couldn’t be happier to be a citizen.
That feeling was shared by Abderrezak Nazi, an El Cerrito resident and student at Contra Costa College who is continuing his education in the U.S. in order to score a career in bio-technology, an industry that thrives in the Bay Area. He supports himself by working as a concierge at a Marriott hotel.
The group of new citizens come from nations as diverse as Bulgaria, Cameroon and the Philippines. It included an El Cerrito resident and Tibetan woman who’s looking forward to the ease of travel the American passport brings.