Naturalization Ceremony Welcomes 99 New Citizens July 4, 2024 in Portsmouth

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Susan Dromey Heeter photo

Abiola Abraham Ajarka, a new U.S. citizen from Nigeria, celebrates with his son Deji at the Naturalization Ceremony July 4 in Portsmouth.


PORTSMOUTH – There are very few things in life that never disappoint:  McDonald’s French fries, a baby’s giggle, cornflower blue, and the Naturalization Ceremony held every July 4th at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth.  

This year’s ceremony welcomed 99 new citizens from 41 different countries.  And every year, new citizens are invited to stand when their country’s name is called. Australia to Vietnam, people stood up enthusiastically, the crowd applauded and welcomed.

 While I am there to simply witness the event, I inevitably weep.  It’s a beautiful moment to witness; today was ceremony, a joyful ceremony, a ceremony where Judge Landya B. McCafferty reminded all that with citizenship there is power, privilege and responsibility.  

Susan Dromey Heeter

And in her words she spoke of the magnitude of immigrants’ stories, reminding all that 98% of Americans arrived here from another place. She mentioned that only 30% of Americans successfully pass the required citizenship test while 90% of immigrants succeed.

Below is the poem, Citizenship, by Ed Wilkinson, included both in the program and read aloud during the ceremony.  Celebrate this Independence Day and honor your power, privilege and responsibility.  It’s good to be American, even when it feels like it is not.


I don’t remember being born.  I just was.  I don’t remember how difficult it was for me but my mother might have a different perspective on it. That is how I became a citizen of the United States.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service didn’t interview my infant self to determine my worthiness to become a citizen of this country. If they had done so I would have failed.  I didn’t have to fill out complicated and boring paperwork.  I was not required to pay the processing fee.  I didn’t have to demonstrate knowledge of the English language.  I didn’t have to leave anything behind. I didn’t have to swear my loyalty to this country. 

As am American: If you ask me whether it is more impressive to build a house or to simply live in one, I will say build.

As an American: if you ask me whether it is more important to be born with something or earn it through labor and sacrifice. I will say labor. 

To new citizens: Welcome to the house you built.  Welcome to the home you’ve already made with your own two hands.  I was born here and I’ve lived here my whole life. I am an American but I never chose it. You chose.  You toiled.  That is why you will remember this day.

Susan Dromey Heeter is a writer from Dover who recently let her hair go au natural white. Writing has been her passion since her English majoring days at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  Dromey Heeter has lived in The Netherlands, Alaska and currently basks in all things New England, including the frigid winters. An avid swimmer, Dromey Heeter’s great passion is to bring back body surfing as most children have no idea how to ride waves without ridiculous boogie boards.

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