With the rain pounding on the roof of the large blue tent and water cascading down its clear plastic sides, there were no "sunshine patriots" assembled on George Washington's front lawn to receive their U.S. citizenship on this first Flag Day following Sept. 11, 2001.
Almost on cue, as the 90 candidates from 44 nations, completed the oath of allegiance to their newly adopted homeland, the rain stopped and a ray of sun illuminated the vista of the Potomac River below as if the first President himself was saying, "Welcome."
In paying tribute to the new citizens, Warren A. Lewis, district director, Washington District Office, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS], said, "This is now as much your country as it is mine. Pay homage to those that have paid the ultimate price to secure this nation and participate in this democracy."
OPENING THE ceremonies, Mrs. Robert E. Lee IV, vice regent for Maryland, The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, noted that this event was being held on the 227th anniversary of the U.S. Army, known at the time of the Revolution as the Continental Army, at the home of its first commanding General. This was the second year the event was held at the Mount Vernon Estate.
Following administration of the oath by William Ingram, INS supervisory district adjudications officer, the international assemblage was told by U.S. Congressman Thomas M.Davis, III (R-11th), "You are now my bosses.
"Washington and others knew this nation was unique. You can move to Paris and never be French or to Italy and never be Italian or to Britain and never be British. But you can come to America and become an American. The pioneer spirit lives on with every new immigrant."
That pioneer spirit was personified by Jorge Fernando Castaneda a 12-year resident of Alexandria and native of Peru. "I'm really happy to become a citizen. Everyone else in my family is still in Peru. I came here because of the opportunity," he proudly exclaimed.
He was joined in that enthusiasm by Johnson Ellar Ameh of Nigeria, a six-year resident of Herndon, and Mita Kumar from India who has lived in Arlington for the past 11 years. The 90 new Americans came from around the globe - Afghanistan to Brazil and China to Norway.