Sunday, September 23, 2001

Oath turns immigrants to citizens

Nation's new mood adds poignancy to ceremony

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        With war on the horizon and a fear of additional terrorist attacks here, 52 people gathered at the Academy of World Languages in Evanston to become naturalized citizens of the United States.

        Some wore tennis shoes and shorts. Some wore suits. They were men and women. Some old. Some with small children. They were from India, China, Rwanda and 19 other nations on Friday.

Hung Van Nguyen, a native of Vietnam, takes the oath of allegiance to the United States at a ceremony at a school in Evanston Friday.
        But each one held a tiny American flag as they stood in the school auditorium and pledged in unison to “support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. ... So help me God.”

        Fairfield resident Jamal Chloun, 43, of the Middle Eastern nation of Lebanon, said before the ceremony he was nervous and that his family overseas was “so excited.”

        Like many immigrants, Mr. Chloun has an American dream. Now in restaurant management, he wants to start his own restaurant here serving food from his homeland.

        But first, he wants to bring his three children and his wife to America.

        It was his 1-year-old daughter, Elhana, who inspired him to become a citizen.

        “It gives me some kind of sadness deep inside that this (terror attacks) happened,” he said. “I promised myself that when I get my citizenship I would teach my children to defend America.”

        He said he understands why some people have ill feelings against Arabs, but to him the terrorism was “despicable and inhumane.”

        The ceremony was meaningful for Rudolph Javonsky, 64, of Toronto, Canada, and his wife, Carole. Both took the oath Friday.

        Mr. Javonsky, a Sycamore Township resident and executive at Federated Department Stores Inc., was in New York on 34th Street last week when the terrorist attacks took place.

        “I certainly support America,” he said. “I am proud to become part of this nation.”

        The setting at the Academy of World Languages was symbolic of the diversity and freedom of America. The school houses students of 44 nations. Children of the 23 nations of the new citizens stood on the auditorium stage to represent them.

        After the official swearing in by U.S. District Judge Herman J. Weber, the new citizens received a rousing welcome from students, who sang “My Country 'Tis of Thee” and “America the Beautiful.”

        “I just love it,” said 30-year-old Mahmoud Khalil after the ceremony. “This is one of the best days of my life.”

        A Palestinian who lives in Colerain Township, Mr. Khalil said he hasn't experienced any prejudice after last week's terrorism.

        “Educated people understand not everybody's the same,” he said.

        Mr. Chloun said he values American liberties, such as freedom of speech, and will continue working 12-hour days to bring his family here.

        “America has a unique system, and that's what makes it a great country,” he said. “All I can say is America, love it or leave it.”

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- Oath turns immigrants to citizens
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