Norman Rockwell Museum and the Berkshire Immigration Center welcomed 23 new United States citizens on September 8, 2012, during a naturalization ceremony held in the Museum’s galleries. The Berkshire County residents from 16 different countries were sworn in as citizens in front of Norman Rockwell’s iconic Four Freedoms paintings. Southern Berkshire District Court Judge Fredric Rutberg led the oath of allegiance, and was joined by Massachusetts State Governor Deval Patrick and Norman Rockwell Museum Director/CEO, who both offered remarks and welcomed each of the new citizens. Other Massachusetts state dignitaries included Norman Rockwell Museum Director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt; State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield); State Representative Gailanne M. Cariddi (D-North Adams); State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield); State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D- Lenox); Mayor of Pittsfield, Daniel L. Bianchi; and Ellen Kennedy, President of Berkshire Community College.
Berkshire Eagle, September 9, 2012
Speaking against the backdrop of Stockbridge resident Rockwell’s famed 1943 “Four Freedoms” paintings depicting President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ideals of American democracy, museum Executive Director and CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt described “an historic, life-changing event” for the 22 applicants and urged them to always exercise their right to vote “as one of the great privileges of citizenship.”
“We’re all children of immigrants … and we’re proud of your hard work and dedication,” said Moffatt.
Berena Smith of Pittsfield, a German immigrant who co-owns Cakewalk Bakery in Lee with her husband, Brian, awaited the swearing-in with their 19-month-old son, Colin.
“It’s a very important day for me,” she told The Eagle. “I live here, I feel part of the country, so today feels a natural step. My husband and my son are both U.S. citizens, so it’s important for me as a family.”
“This is a great day for Berkshire County, for the Rockwell museum and for all of you, and it’s a great day for me,” declared Rutberg after the 22 new citizens had been sworn in.
“Our daily fare and our dockets are filled with human misery, that’s just the way it is,” he said. “It’s so rare for a judge to preside over an event where everyone is happy. The Norman Rockwell Museum has a huge place in my heart. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate place to receive the Oath of Allegiance.”
As Rutberg put it, after discussing the history surrounding Rockwell’s paintings, “these four freedoms are alive and powerful today in this country, in our community and in this room. Short of the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, I can’t conceive of a more perfect place for this ceremony to occur.”
Goundo Behanzin, from the West African nation of Benin on the Ivory Coast, arrived in 1994, lives in Pittsfield and owns the Berkshire International Market on North Street. He said, “it’s a great day for me, to be able to participate in all activities, to vote, that’s very important.”
YNN News, Berkshires, September 8, 2012
“It’s been a beautiful ceremony, lots of friends here, and a wonderful spirit,” said Governor Patrick.
“I came to the U.S. with $1,000 in my pocket, and now I have a family here, a wonderful job, and I’m really glad to know my daughter will be raised in this country,” said Tereza Hubkova, a Richmond, Massachusetts resident. “I so appreciated being able to remain in this country.”