Stockbridge, MA, August 27, 2012—Berkshire County residents who immigrated to the United States from around the world will be sworn-in as new naturalized United States citizens during a special ceremony to be held at Norman Rockwell Museum on Saturday, September 8, starting at 10 a.m.
Norman Rockwell Museum and the Berkshire Immigrant Center joined together to bring the event to fruition following the Museum’s recent Four Freedoms Forum community dialogue on immigration that took place in March 2011. Four Freedoms Forums are Town Hall style meetings held at Norman Rockwell Museum, designed to inspire civility, community discourse, and social justice around complex topics of immense importance to the nation and the Berkshires.
The naturalization ceremony will take place in the Museum’s main gallery against the backdrop of Norman Rockwell’s iconic Four Freedoms paintings. The oath of allegiance will be led by Southern Berkshire District Court Judge Fredric Rutberg, a resident of Stockbridge, who was also sworn in at Norman Rockwell Museum back in 1994, in front of The Four Freedoms.
“I am extremely honored that the Norman Rockwell Museum has asked me to officiate at the citizenship swearing-in ceremony,” says Judge Rutberg. “I was fortunate to preside over a similar ceremony many years ago and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life. The stories and accomplishments of our newest citizens were truly inspiring then, and I am sure that this will be a memorable day not only for those who take the oath of citizenship, but also for all those lucky enough to witness the event.”
Massachusetts State Governor Deval Patrick is scheduled to attend the ceremony and offer remarks. Other local dignitaries will include Massachusetts State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield); State Representative Gailanne M. Cariddi (D-North Adams); State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield); and State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D- Lenox), who was also a child model for Norman Rockwell back in the 1960s. Jean Atwater-Williams, a classically-trained soprano and President of the Sandisfield Arts Center, will sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and other patriotic selections during the ceremony, in addition to a flag presentation from the Dalton Color Guard. Ellen Kennedy, President of Berkshire Community College, will also provide remarks.
The event at the Museum marks the first naturalization ceremony held in Berkshire County since 2002. Since that time, Berkshire County residents have mostly had to travel to the Boston area for their oath ceremonies. Local support for this year’s ceremony has been made possible by Berkshire Bank, Berkshire Community College, Berkshire Health Systems, and Lee Bank.
Over 20 residents will be sworn in during the September 8 ceremony. Many of those residents were aided in their pursuit of citizenship by the Berkshire Immigration Center (BIC), a resource and advocacy organization that serves the local immigration population. “We are so excited for our local residents to have the opportunity to mark this milestone in their lives at the Norman Rockwell Museum,” stated Hilary Greene, BIC Director. “I cannot think of a more beautiful or fitting location for the occasion.”
“Norman Rockwell celebrated all the world’s cultures and peoples; he painted President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms as hallmarks of American democracy. New citizens from international cultures add vibrancy to our Berkshire community, and I hope they will always feel at home and hold a special memory of their citizenship ceremony at Norman Rockwell Museum,” noted Laurie Norton Moffatt, Director/CEO of the Museum.
The residents to achieve U.S. citizenship represent 16 different countries, including Benin, Canada, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Ghana, India, the Ivory Coast, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
To obtain U.S. citizenship, one must hold legal permanent resident (green card) status for a minimum of five years (three years if married this whole time to a U.S. citizen), take an exam on U.S. history and civics, demonstrate proficiency in the English language, and be of “good moral character” among other requirements. The Berkshire Immigrant Center offers assistance with every aspect of the naturalization process including screening for eligibility, application support, disability and fee waivers, legal assistance, transportation, advocacy with USCIS, and English language, history and civics classes. For more information about the Center, please call 413.445.4881 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Four Freedoms Forums:
Town Hall Meetings at the Norman Rockwell Museum
Four Freedoms Forums are a series of ongoing Town Hall conversations inspired by Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms paintings. Started in 2010, the conversations have served as a forum for the public and noted commentators to explore aspects of our democracy and important social concerns in a rapidly changing and increasingly global world.