Hosting new citizens
St. A celebrates democracy with 'Citizenship Week'
GOFFSTOWN — St. Anselm College Student Ambassadors hosted more than 50 people from 30 countries who took the oath of allegiance to the United States at the annual naturalization ceremony recently.
The Sept. 13 ceremony, held at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and Political Library, was part of the St. Anselm College Student Ambassadors’ week-long events focusing on Americans’ right to vote, and the importance of democracy, free speech and fulfilling their civic duties.
Citizenship Week, hosted by the college and the Kevin Harrington Student Ambassadors’ Civic Engagement Committee, also included a Constitution Day trivia contest with questions from the American citizenship test, and facts about American history and politics; a TurboVote pizza and politics event and voter registration drives.
Citizenship Week events surrounded Constitution Day, which is observed nationally on Sept. 17 — the day the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in 1787 in Philadelphia.
“Students are eager to participate in these events because it is an opportunity for them to unite under a common belief in the American democracy that can be shrouded in political rhetoric, and allows for us to truly identify the powerful civil discourse and civic engagement that lives and thrives in our communities,” said co-chairwoman Karen Ejiofor, a sophomore politics major. “I think citizenship week is a week where we realize how lucky we are to be citizens of the United States. We also get to witness other people become citizens during the naturalization ceremony.”
During the week, students were given an opportunity to register to vote through the free online service, TurboVote, a nonpartisan 501(c)3 nonprofit. In addition to voter registrations, TurboVote helps students and individuals keep track of voting rules and deadlines, and provides forms such as absentee ballots. The service also provides alerts so voters can research ballot items in state and national elections.
On-campus registration drives were held at the Davison Hall and the Coffee Shop on Sept. 16-19. A drive will also be held on Friday, Sept. 29, at Davison Hall from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In 2012, TurboVote registered more than 300 St. Anselm College students. The number of students who signed up this year has not been tallied, but the ambassadors urged students to register, especially during a non-election year.
“As a part of Citizenship Week, we hold a voter registration drive to give students an opportunity to register to vote or to receive absentee ballots. While considering this year’s program, both my co-chair Karen (Ejiofor) and myself knew that it was important to host voter registration every year, even if there isn’t an election,” said Scoville. “Although an election and all its hype serves as a reminder and a push for people to register, being a good and responsible citizen is continuous duty; it doesn’t stop when there isn’t an election.”
Consistent annual voter registration demonstrates the importance of being a registered voter, and the right to do so, said Ashley Scoville, Student Ambassador Civic Engagement Committee co-chairwoman.
Scoville, a junior history major, said Citizenship Week reminds students of their responsibilities as American citizens.
“These responsibilities go beyond just voting in elections. It also includes all-around civic participation such as attending town and city functions, and volunteering in the community,” she said. “This is why the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and the Student Ambassador Program work to create a week in which we try to get all members of our campus and nearby community involved in civics.”
Citizenship Week events do not promote any political party or agenda, and is strictly bipartisan.
“When it comes to civic engagement, political party is not a reason to exclude anyone,” Scoville said. “If anything, it is a time when different ideas from across party lines are accepted and included in the project at hand. Citizenship Week serves to remind people that being a productive citizen is a bipartisan responsibility that goes beyond the politics of Washington.”
Other events included guest speaker Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, who presented his book, “This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking in America’s Gilded Capital,” on Sept. 18. At the Sept. 19 Pizza and Politics event, Sam Novey, director of partnerships at TurboVote, presented “Building Habits of Citizenship,” and discussed St. Anselm students’ promotion of voting and civic involvement.