The 'i's were dotted, the 't's were crossed and the seals were stamped on their legal documentation - they were officially citizens of the United States of America. Last week Charles Pinckney National Historic Site hosted the 20th annual naturalization ceremony where 100 individuals from 44 different countries were recognized.
Every individual from nearly every race, ethnicity and nationality all rose together for the same cause - U.S. citizenship. Each stood at attention as they passed the microphone to each other announcing their name and country of origin.
"The joy and excitement is evident on the faces of all the new citizens and their family and friends," said Dawn Davis, Charles Pinckney National Historic Site's public affairs specialist. "It is a reminder to all of us who were born as citizens of the United States how truly lucky we are to be free, to be able to vote and pursue happiness."
One by one, each individual raised their right hand and swore an Oath of Allegiance conducted by U.S. District Court Judge, Richard Gergel. As their name was called, they walked to the front of the stage where they were acknowledged with their U.S. citizenship certification.
"As we look around the world today often divided by religious differences, it's important to remember that the great American experiment with self government was founded on mutual respect, tolerance and inclusion of varied backgrounds, races and religions," Gergel said. "I know that each of you made the courageous decision to leave your native land and come to America and I hope for a better life for yourselves and future generations of your family."
Citizenship does not come cheap - filing for naturalization costs roughly $700 and a permanent residency costs nearly $2,000. Upon completing the Oath of Allegiance, the final step in a long and challenging process, these new American citizens now have the full inalienable rights and protections granted under the U.S. Constitution.
"This oath that you are taking today has led to American citizenship for 220 years," said Kristian Parker, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office director. "The oath is a promise of loyalty to the United States and an expression of patriotism."
The Citadel Color Guard performed "Retiring of the Colors," a 5th grade student from Palmetto Christian Academy led the Pledge of Allegiance. Also present on the grounds were the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, American Red Cross, Charleston County Board of Elections, and U.S. Passport Services.
“Charles Pinckney’s role in framing the US Constitution make this site an appropriate place to welcome new citizens into this country and to reflect on the meaning and responsibilities of citizenship,” said Gary Stansberry, Charles Pinckney National Historic Site's acting superintendent.
For more information please visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/chpi, follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PinckneyNPS, or call (843) 881-5516. You can also share your park experience with others by posting on social media with the hashtag #FindYourPark. The park is located at 1254 Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant.