Judge Jeffrey Helmick, serving the Northern District of Toledo, on Wednesday told the 52 individuals who would shortly become U.S. citizens that there was no place he’d rather be that day. In a packed auditorium at Winebrenner Theological Seminary, the guests of honor, representing 25 countries, took part in the naturalization ceremony hosted by the University of Findlay.
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Helmick, who described the vast majority of his work as being “in the conflict resolution business,” characterized as exceptional the particular duty of swearing in new citizens.
Prior to the event, Helmick put guests at ease by explaining to them that all others in attendance were there to recognize their achievement. “Please allow us to celebrate this special day with you,” he asked.
After walking near the back of the room so that participants could take the oath while facing friends and family, the crowd was treated to interpretations of U.S. citizenship by five regional high school students, some of whom shared personal family naturalization stories relating to struggles and successes.
Jessica Haught, an Arlington High School senior, described how World War II separated her great-grandparents, and eventually put them on a path to America.
“Imagine being kicked out of your home because the people who came to your town didn’t like who you were,” Haught said. Her Yugoslavian great-grandfather, after being forced to become a soldier, spent a year searching for his dislocated family after the war; he did not know if they were dead or alive. Haught said he initially travelled on foot, a knapsack slung over his shoulder, performing odd jobs when he could to pay for a bicycle. After a year-long search the family reunited in Vienna, eventually found a sponsor and immigrated to America, where they faced more hardships before settling in Akron, Ohio.
Alyssa Jordan, also an Arlington High School Senior, told of her grandparents, who married in Okinawa while her grandfather served in the U.S. Air Force. When they reached the United States, her grandmother, leaving the language and the only culture she knew behind, was then left to adjust on her own as her husband was deployed to Thailand. Her grandmother was naturalized in 1975, she said.
Additionally, Helmick relayed the story of beloved Findlay business professor Shiv Gupta, D.B.A., who emigrated from India in the 1960s with his wife and five children. d
“He loved America and he loved its entrepreneurial spirit,” said Helmick. “He embraced it like no other” by going on to develop computer simulations and popular games that teach business principles. “His idea was to make learning about business fun and accessible to everyone,” Helmick explained.
Helmick urged the group of new citizens to “dare to dream, but act upon those dreams” by innovating, growing, teaching, creating and sharing.