State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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On a consecrated battlefield, 16 become citizens

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 19, 2012 5:39 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

This year’s commemoration of the 149th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address also marked a first for 16 people in the audience at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Adams County.

The group was invited to take the Oath of Allegiance and become naturalized citizens during the ceremony celebrating one of the country’s most famous speeches. Afterward, the group heard a recorded greeting from President Obama, and stood with hundreds of people in the audience as they said the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as citizens.

Issaka Diallo, from Guinea, wore a coat designed in such a way that it looked like an American flag draped around his shoulders.

“I am very happy to have found this ceremony because I been here a long time,” said Diallo in halting English. He lives in Harrisburg and has been in the United States for 10 years, he said. His wife, Rahinatu Larry, stood next to him after the ceremony, smiling and wishing out loud that her own naturalization ceremony would come soon.

Seated in front of Diallo was Rosa Bolger, from the United Kingdom. She said one thought eclipsed all others throughout the naturalization ceremony. “I was thinking, I hope I don’t cry anymore,” she said. “This is embarrassing.”

By the end of the ceremony, strangers from the audience – people who had ostensibly come to hear from Steven Spielberg and an Abraham Lincoln re-enactor – were walking over to shake hands with the new citizens. Shanthi Shakamuri, a surgeon originally from India, was approached by two women who spoke over one another, saying "welcome,” “congratulations,” and "glad you’re here.”

“Thank you very much,” Shakamuri said. “I’m honored.”

He said he’s been living in the U. S. since 1993, and never imagined his naturalization would be part of such a grand ceremony as the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

“I was choking up,” said Shakamuri about the ceremony. “It’s a big thing.”

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