Kiet Nguyen raised his right hand and swore an oath to the United States of America. Eight years after arriving from Ho Chi Minh City, he smiled wide and posed for photos with friends and strangers alike.
“I came looking for freedom,” he said. “There are so many opportunities here.”
Nguyen was one of 13 immigrants from 12 countries to attend Friday’s ceremony in Central Library's meeting room. Library Director Vailey Oehlke and County Chair Deborah Kafoury welcomed their newest compatriots, calling on them to take advantage of those freedoms and opportunities.
“Follow your passions. Pursue your dreams. Build a United States that makes us proud,” Chair Kafoury said. “Vote. Protest. Study. Wake up each morning and ask yourself, ‘How can I be of service today?’”
Chair Kafoury’s great grandfather, Nader Kafoury, left Syria when he was a teen and came to the United States. He went on to own a business and was elected mayor of a little Idaho town.
“The question in our family was never whether or not to be involved in your community – but how, and when,” Kafoury said Friday during the ceremony. “And that’s our duty as Americans, to be of service to all people. To wake up each day and ask, how can I make life better for the people I love, and the people I don’t even know.”
The message rang true for Kevin Schiller, of Toronto, who cried when he explained why he had wanted to become a U.S. citizen.
“Here you have a country that says, ‘Give me your poor,’” he said. “You look at the faces of Americans, and it doesn’t matter what you look like or what your heritage is. We’ve got problems, yes. But let’s be strong and use the tools we have to improve it.”