By Alin K. Gregorian
BOSTON — About 100 brand-new US citizens spent their first hours as Americans at the Armenian Heritage Park on Thursday, October 13, where they were welcomed warmly by members of the Armenian community, who hosted the only way they can, with song, food and drink.
As the new citizens made their way over to the Armenian Heritage Park from Faneuil Hall, where the swearing-in had taken place, greeters offered them American flag pins, trays of sweets and refreshing apple cider.
The day’s event included a brief program, where the judge who had just administered the citizenship oath, retired senior United States District Court Judge Rya Zobel, came to the park to deliver some pithy remarks.
“I wish to thank the Friends of Armenian Heritage Park, the organizers of this reception and its collaborators: Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, City of Boston Office of Immigrant Advancement, Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy,” she said. “Particular thanks go to the Armenian community for not just for organizing and hosting this reception but also for its long time and consistent recognition and celebration of the immigrant experience.”
She delved into the history of the Armenians in the US, saying it goes back to the 17th century, “the clearly correctly named ‘Martin the Armenian’ who came to visit America and settled in Virginia in 1618,” she said. “He was followed by several waves of Armenian arrivals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, largely as a result of their repression and expulsion from the countries in which they had been born. … Although they formed close communities, they also became part of the America scene. They contributed to literature and the arts, the academy and the sciences, politics and sports.”
Then she addressed the newcomers. “You are now also part of the immigrant community and you will play out your own immigrant experience. I know from my life as an immigrant, that it is not always easy to learn a new language to accept new customs and norms, to adjust to school and work experiences very difference from what we knew. But I also know that in this country, even today, you will have opportunities not found anywhere else in the world. With determination and hard work it is possible in this country to reach heights not accessible in most every place else.”
She also urged all newcomers to register to vote.
Zobel was born in Germany in 1931. She attended Radcliffe College and later graduated from Harvard Law School.
State Rep. David K. Muradian Jr. (R- Grafton) welcomed the new citizens.
“I want to begin by welcoming you all. … Whether you have an Armenian heritage like myself, or come to our wonderful country from a different nationality, my friends, we are all Americans now,” he said.
“You are all about to begin a new, exciting chapter of life here in America. Each and every one of you has overcome obstacles, made sacrifices, and put in large efforts to accomplish what you have today. You and your families should be justifiably proud of this achievement,” he noted.
He then explained to the audience the meaning of the abstract sculpture at the park and the symbolism of its pieces coming together and being reconfigured to symbolize the immigrant experience, as well as the labyrinth, which is a celebration of life.
“Each of you, as an American citizen, has the opportunity to make contributions to our communities that you might bring with you from your own backgrounds. Be it your skills, customs, talents or courage, we want to thank you for what you will contribute as you begin your new life here,” he said.
Muradian, speaking before the program began, said he was “extremely flattered to be welcoming the new citizens,” adding he wished he was able to take in the swearing-in ceremony.
A total of 375 new citizens were sworn in on Thursday, with the most number from Haiti (47), followed by Vietnam (14) India and Jamaica (12 each).
During the program at the park, the Black Sea Salsa Band, a 12-piece fusion band mixing Latin, Middle Eastern and Armenian music performed. Eileen Herman-Haase and Raul Nieves of the Arlington-based Dance Caliente danced gracefully to the beat on the labyrinth and occasionally pulled in others enjoying their dances.
The program was sponsored by Eastern Bank. Collaborating with the Friends of the Armenian Heritage Park were the US District Court, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Office of Immigrant Advancement, Faneuil Hall, Middlesex Country Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy.