PORTSMOUTH — With a small flag in his left hand and his right hand over his heart, Bernd Foecking recited the Pledge of Allegiance Friday for the first time as an American citizen.
The 38-year-old from Germany came to the United States as an international camp counselor in 1996, married an American woman three years later, became a permanent resident in 2000, had two daughters, and on Friday joined 49 others from 30 foreign countries who were sworn in as new citizens.
“I never left,” said Foecking, who lives in Rindge and is the headmaster at Hampshire Country School. His family and students from the private boarding school were on hand to celebrate his new citizenship during a special naturalization ceremony held at the National Visa Center.
The immigrants originated from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Burma, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Germany, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Serbia, South Korea, Sweden, Togo, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
Friday’s ceremony was bittersweet for Simon Abi Nader, who is retiring as director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ field office in Manchester.
Nader fought back tears as he administered the Oath of Allegiance.
Ambassador Janice Jacobs, assistant secretary of counselor affairs for the U.S. Department of Justice, welcomed the new citizens to their new “community” and spoke about how each has a unique American story to tell.
“I speak of citizenship as community. It is a community that extends beyond boundaries, beyond borders, and stays with you throughout your lifetime,” she told the new citizens.
Jacobs said some may have come to America to escape tyranny or oppression while others came seeking new opportunities.
“The threads of many nationalities here today are woven into the tapestry of this nation so magnificent and resilient. No other country is as defined and as united by its diversity as ours,” Jacobs said. “You can see that diversity all around you here in New Hampshire, one of the original 13 states that founded the United States of America.”
Zoraida Mora of Dover moved to the United States from Cuba six years ago.
“I like it here. I think it’s good for my children and for me. I’ve met a lot of people here. This is very exciting, but I’m very nervous,” said the 43-year-old mother of three.
The new citizens also included three employees of the National Visa Center. One of those workers was Evelyn Roberge, a native of Peru whose mother-in-law, Cora Roberge of Springvale, Maine, attended the ceremony to celebrate her new citizenship.
“It’s just beyond exciting,” she said, describing how her son, Nathan, met Evelyn while she was here as a college student. They are now married with two children.
“My son met her and that was it,” she said with a smile.
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Jason Schreiber may be reached at email@example.com.