From the Albany, NY Times Union Newspaper


Fitting day to become a citizen

At a Fourth of July ceremony in Stillwater, 21 participants from 18 nations take the oath


By DANIELLE T. FURFARO, Staff writer
First published: Tuesday, July 5, 2005  


STILLWATER -- The crowd, gathered at the Saratoga National Historic Park to welcome new American citizens on Independence Day, clapped and cheered as the participants walked toward a podium that overlooked woods and distant mountains. The cheers were loudest for Carlos Duque Londono from Colombia and Arthid Cianfarani from Thailand, both of whom are members of the U.S military.

"I joined the military for pride, for a better future, for respect," said Londono, 26, of Queens, who came to this country with his mother when he was 11 and is a corporal in the Marines. "What is there not to like about this country? You have freedom and so many opportunities to succeed."

Londono still lives in Queens, but he expects to be deployed soon to Iraq.

"When the time comes, I will be ready," he said.

Londono and Cianfarani were among 21 new Americans from 18 countries sworn in at the site of the battles that proved to be a turning point of the American Revolution.

"At any time you could have stopped your journey, but we are glad you didn't," said Duane Booth, Saratoga chapter president of Sons of the American Revolution, the group that helped organize the event. "Some of us have roots that go back before the Revolutionary War. But it's more than the roots that make us want to stay. It is the people."

Dressed in traditional Revolutionary War garb, park ranger Joe Craig read a toast to America. Later, other re-enactors set off a four-musket salute.

The ceremony, one of hundreds throughout the country Monday, represented the values that make the United States the great country that it is, said State Assemblyman Roy McDonald of Wilton.

"What if all the people throughout the world, all cultures and all colors, didn't come together to form one team, where would we be?" McDonald asked the crowd.

In 1993, Ananthakrishnan and Rama Ramani came from India with their two children for a two-year fellowship to work with infectious diseases at Albany Medical Center. When the fellowship ended, the family decided to stay.

"We liked it so much, and we knew we had to stay here," said Ananthakrishnan, 48. He and his wife live in Kinderhook with their children, 17-year-old Ashok, and 13-year-old daughter Rohini, who will become citizens today in a ceremony for children. "This country really is liberty and justice for all."

About 60 family members and friends of the new citizens were on hand for the 90-minute morning ceremony beneath a cloudless sky. Ana Leyva translated for her mother, Ana Fuguet, who cried with joy as she spoke about her experiences.

"I now have two countries," said Fuguet, 58, of Wilton. "Being in Cuba was a hard economic situation. Here, I have my family and it is beautiful."