Stockbridge, MA, September 8, 2012—Norman Rockwell Museum welcomed 23 new United States citizens today 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, who offered remarks and welcomed each of the new citizens.
“Becoming a citizen is a major step for immigrants and refugees towards full integration into American life and living the American Dream, central to what our country stands for,” said Governor Patrick. “The diverse backgrounds, shared experiences, enthusiasm and ambition among these new citizens will make the Commonwealth and country stronger for generations to come.”
Other Massachusetts state dignitaries included 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 Norman Rockwell Museum Director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. Ellen Kennedy, President of Berkshire Community College, provided closing remarks; along with a flag presentation from the Dalton Color Guard, and music from soprano Jean Atwater-Williams.
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.
“While his images are distinctively American, Norman Rockwell painted desires common to all cultures and peoples,” said Norman Rockwell Museum Director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. “The desire to care for and provide for our children; to laugh and to love; to work hard and to play; to be safe and live freely; to be a friend and to have friends; to care for our fellow citizens; to build caring communities. I hope these are the experiences you have found here in the United States and are the memories you will make in your new country with your families and friends.”
The event at the Museum marks the first naturalization ceremony held in Berkshire County since 2002. Local support for this year’s ceremony has been made possible by Berkshire Bank, Berkshire Community College, Berkshire Health Systems, and Lee Bank.
The new U.S. citizens originated from 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: email@example.com.