Today, being the Fourth of July, was marked at the home of Thomas Jefferson with Monticello's 45th annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. Some 75 new American citizens, who came here from around the world, took the oath of citizenship from Judge James P. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
It is customary for Monticello to host a distinguished speaker at these events. Previous speakers have included Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, author Frank McCourt, publisher Al Neuharth, and artists Christo and Jean-Claude. This year's speaker was an assistant district attorney from New York City -- or, more accurately, the actor who plays that attorney on TV, Oscar- and Emmy-nominee Sam Waterston, whose Scottish-born father was an immigrant to the United States.
I have pieced together some video excerpts from today's festivities. I reserve the right to replace these videos when I have a chance to do a better editing job.
In this 10-minute clip, the Charlottesville Municipal Band plays a march, John Charles Thomas reads the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, and Sam Waterston delivers some pointed remarks. (I have reduced Waterston's 22-minute speech to about 7 minutes. The full address may become available at the Monticello web site.)
The oath of citizenship was administered by Judge James P. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Certificates of citizenship were presented and new citizens were congratulated personally by Judge Jones and Mr. Waterston.
After all the new citizens had collected their naturalization certificates, Judge Jones opened the floor to comments. Two newly naturalized Americans rose to the occasion. Here is one of them, Ehonam Miheaye Agbati, an emigrant from Togo.
To close the ceremony, former Charlottesville Mayor Francis Fife, a veteran of World War II, led the new citizens and other Americans in the Pledge of Allegiance. A color guard from the Junior Air Force ROTC unit at Monticello High School in Albemarle County presented the U.S. and Virginia flags.
Happy Independence Day!