When keynote speaker Dr. Norma Solis greeted the 969 individuals seated at the Fresno Convention Center with “Good morning my fellow Americans,” the pride of finally obtaining the citizenship of this country could be observed in the face of new American citizens.
“You qualified, you studied, you tested, you passed, you are here,” said Solis, who is a family practice specialist doctor with Community Medical Providers in Reedley.
Solis spoke about family, culture, heritage and choices during the monthly naturalization oath ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at the Fresno Convention Center’s Valdez Hall where Valley residents from 55 counties took oath to achieve the dream of becoming American Citizens.
“Like many of you, my parents had a very limited formal education. My mother had two years of elementary school and then entered farm labor to help feed her family who were both in the United States and in México, where her parents remained,” said Solis, who received her medical degree from University of California, San Diego school of medicine. “My father received his general education while serving in the United States Army, Korean War, and then gained citizenship through his service.”
“They worked in farm labor for most of their lives, picking grapes and oranges, harvesting tree fruits withstanding extremes of temperature here in our Central Valley, like many of you,” said Solis, adding that her parents didn’t spare their children – she and her sister - from those types of experiences including “humbling Christmas breaks and school holidays as we hid from our friends driving by, so as not to be seen working out in the fields.”
Solis said, “my parents instincts told them these experiences had value.”
“These experiences highlighted the value of hard work, promoted the development of humility and compassion. Attributes that were ever present in my upbringing,” said Solis, who has been in practice for more than 20 years.
“My parents’ lives were fueled by their work ethic, driven by a spirit of kindness and love and grounded by their aspirations to obtain the American dream – creating opportunities for their children and families. Again, those things that also drive you,” said Solis. “A chance for an education and a yearning for a life filled with choice made that daily struggle worthwhile.” Solis said her parents’ lack of choice, primarily her mother’s, fueled her desire to obtain an education.
“Today, I stand with you, who like my parents have traveled a long journey to be here and take this memorable step,” she said. “Like my family members you have faced struggles, challenges, and yet you have persevered. You are here. You have given your children and families the gift of choice.”
Among the new citizens were 563 people from México, followed by the country of India, which had the second largest number of new citizens, with a total of 121, with 77 people from the Philippines, 20 from El Salvador, and 10 from Guatemala, all standing as they heard the name of their country during the ceremony.
Dr. Marshall Lancaster, Immigration Supervisory Services Officer of the USCIS Office in Fresno, administered the Pledge of Allegiance.
“As American citizens do not stand on the sidelines. Use your right to vote to shape the future of the country you want to see for your community and families,” Solis said, adding, “Remember, the United States is a nation of immigrants and always will be. Today opportunities abound, what will you choose to do with them? Learn a language, return to school, open a business, become engage in your community,”
Before those individuals from 55 country left the convention center as American citizens, Solis reminded them that like her, “you all have a story of how your ancestors have influenced your dream. Our stories and diverse backgrounds and communities make the United States a better place.”
“Remember, you bring with you the passion of your heritage, your diligence and you determine nature,” said Solis as she encourage the new citizens to celebrate not only their common dreams, aspirations and achievements, “but let us do so while recognizing and embracing our differences.”
Other countries represented included Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jamaica, Perú and Venezuela, with one individual each.