The Liberty Hall Museum in Union, NJ has grown the past 200 years from being a 14-room Georgian style home to a 50-room Victorian style mansion. Originally the home of New Jersey's first elected governor and signer of the Constitution, William Livingston, now serves as a museum that houses extensive collections of antique furniture, ceramics, textiles, toys and tools owned by seven generations of the Livingston and Kean families.
On Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 33 immigrants from 18 countries were sworn in as new U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony which took place at the Liberty Hall Museum. Last year, on Monday, June 20, 2016, 35 immigrants from 22 different countries were sworn at the same place.
These new citizens originated from Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Jordan, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.
Laurent Gutierrez, a junior architecture and art history double major at Kean University, is one of the new U.S. citizens that was from Cuba. She is not just any student, though. Not only is she the first in her family to become a citizen, but Gutierrez is a member of Jumpstart under the Center for Leadership and Service (CLS), and has been a member for three years.
"Laurent is hardworking, creative and she does very well with her work," said Kean University Associate Site Manager Michelle Zuzock.
Very important speakers welcomed the new citizens at the ceremony. One of the many speakers present at the ceremony was Kean University President Dawood Farahi, Ph.D.
He welcomed the people and even called them "beautiful people from beautiful parts of the world," according to Kean University Media Relations.
Another speaker was John Kean, the president of the Liberty Hall Museum. He gave an overview of the history of the mansion and noted that several presidents, including First President George Washington, have visited Liberty Hall.
According to Kean University Media Relations, the entire ceremony felt like a homecoming to Gutierrez.
"It is exciting to be sworn in at Liberty Hall Museum. It feels like home because I study here," Gutierrez said. "It was moving to me. I was crying at some points in the ceremony."
For her, becoming a citizen connected her to the U.S. and gave her opportunities that she was not able to have in Cuba.
Gutierrez mentioned, “I would not have been able to study the thing I wanted to study the most in my country.”
Ever since she came to America, she pursued her dream to take up architecture along with art history. Now she is one step closer to contributing her talents to America along with her fellow citizens.
U.S. Representative Albio Sires was the keynote speaker at the ceremony, as well as a naturalized citizen from Cuba. He encouraged the new Americans to claim all the rights and privileges of citizenship.
“Now the work begins,” Sires said. “You are now a participant in this great country. Your vote is the same as everybody else’s. People have died for that privilege. People die in other countries because they can’t vote.”
Kean added on, “As you take the oath today, you’ll be vested with the rights, privileges and duties of a citizen.”
On behalf of Kean University, congratulations to all of those who became a voice in the United States and took another step in contributing diversity and culture as a citizen.