- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2000

Twelve years ago, Lucy Song's parents returned to China and tearfully left their daughter behind so she could have a better life.
Yesterday was the culmination of the parents' dream: Lucy, 28, married, a soon-to-be-dentist, became a U.S. citizen.
"It is very special to me," Ms. Song said after the Fourth of July naturalization ceremony in Arlington's (Va.) Freedom Park. "I am not a Chinese-living-in-America anymore. I am American."
And so it went, a story as old as the nation, 224-years-old yesterday, as 50 persons from Afghanistan, Trinidad, Germany, Ghana and everywhere in between, pledged themselves to America as America pledged itself to them.
In scarves and suits and sailors' apparel, the new Americans raised their hands and swore to "support and defend the Constitution," as required of all applicants for citizenship in the Oath of Allegiance. Flags waving in some pockets, they recited the Pledge of Allegiance and received their citizenship certificates.
"There is no better way to celebrate the nation's birthday," said Peter Prichard, president of the Freedom Forum, which hosted the ceremony.
Everyone seemed to agree.
"She was so excited," said Marion Zevovitz, of Frederick, Md., the American "mother" of Mrs. Song. "So were we. It meant so much to her."
Rosa Flores, of El Salvador, held flowers from her boss and smiled after the ceremony.
"It has been 20 years since I left my country because of the war," she said. "I never thought I would see this day."
For Albert Acosta, 21, who immigrated from Colombia 17 years ago, it was all about legitimizing what he already feels.
"I can vote now," he said, dressed in his Navy whites. "Now I have the paperwork to get higher security clearances."
Representatives from the Department of State and the Immigration and Naturalization Service were on hand yesterday to welcome the new Americans, advise them of their rights and of their responsibilities.
"Today, you have embraced American principles and freedoms," INS District Director Warren Lewis told the applicants. "And because of the nation you have chosen today, freedom is now your mother, courage your father."
Mr. Lewis also implored the new Americans to "ask what we can do for the freedom of man, be involved in your community, vote in elections and do what you can to improve our country," in a speech reminiscent of the words of President Kennedy.
And he welcomed them, saying they are America's great gift.
In Charlottesville, Va., 84 persons from 27 countries became citizens on the steps of Monticello.
The new Americans who took the oath of citizenship during the annual Independence Day ceremony at Thomas Jefferson's home included a Bolivian fisherman, an educator from Pakistan and a Chinese biologist.
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright told the new citizens that they reminded her of the fears she felt when she came to the United States from Czechoslovakia at age 11.
"It never occurred to me that I would be secretary of state and have Thomas Jefferson's job," Mrs. Albright told the crowd of about 1,500.
Last year, 1.4 million foreign-born residents were naturalized, 120,000 in the Washington area. So far this year, 10,700 have been naturalized in the region.
Routee Gittens, 40, of Trinidad, was one of them.
Wearing a gray suit and with mascara smudged from tears, she explained at the Arlington ceremony why she wanted to become American.
"I wanted to become somebody, to uplift my being," she said. "In Trinidad, I didn't do anything. Now I am a nursing assistant and studying to be a [registered nurse] as well as a mother and wife. My husband says I've changed. I'd say for the better."
"I am standing tall now."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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