Pledging allegiance: Ceremony mints Boston’s newest citizens

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This article includes an interactive quiz at the end of the story.

BOSTON – On a sunny October afternoon, 368 immigrants from dozens of nations rose to their feet in Faneuil Hall’s dignified upper chamber and swore allegiance to the United States of America, marking their entry into U.S. citizenship.

Repeating after a federal immigration officer, hundreds of accented voices joined in unison: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.”

Federal District Court Judge Dennis Saylor then declared them all Americans, prompting the packed room to erupt in applause, hollers and whistles. Scores of freshly minted citizens wildly waved little red-white-and-blue flags, creating an electric atmosphere in the Colonial-era hall.

The 15-minute ceremony concluded with Judge Saylor wishing the participants and their families well, followed by a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“May you and your children and your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren enjoy the blessings of your sacrifices and the commitment you made here today,” the judge said.

“I feel, like, no more pressure,” Neitou Gomes, from Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, said with a laugh after taking the oath. He was watching the other newest citizens in Boston descend the Faneuil Hall stairs to be greeted with cheers and hugs from family and friends outside.

Applicants for U.S. Citizenship review their U.S. Citizenship Welcome Packet​ before the naturalization ceremony begins at Faneuil Hall Oct. 15. (Photo by Kara Bettis)
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Despite living in the U.S. for 12 years, earning a master’s degree here and teaching in Boston public schools, Mauro Reyes from Santiago said he was also nervous during the ceremony.

“This is a very important day in my life,” the Chilean immigrant said.

To become a citizen, applicants must pass a civics test by correctly answering at least six out of 10 questions drawn from a pool of 100 potential exam entries. Would-be Americans must also demonstrate they are of “good, moral character,” which means submitting to background checks. They must have been a legal permanent resident for at least five years and prove minimum English proficiency.

One nationwide initiative, by the Joe Foss Institute, would require U.S. high school students to pass a similar civics exam before they can graduate. The Scottsdale, Arizona-based nonprofit group cites statistics that show only 20 percent of eighth-grade students are proficient in history and civics. Just nine states require passing a civics exam a prerequisite for graduation.

In an interview, Judge Saylor estimated that he has conducted “couple of dozen” naturalization ceremonies in the past 11 years as a federal jurist.

To make the ceremony unique, the judge often mentions famous immigrant Americans – such as physicist Albert Einstein and Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. And after touching on the significance of the upcoming national Veteran’s Day holiday during his preliminary remarks this week, Judge Saylor recognized service members in the audience. In the U.S., legal immigrants who aren’t citizens can enlist in the armed forces.

“Sometimes you just need to be reminded of what’s important,” the judge said in the interview. “It always makes me happy, I feel very proud. I never get tired of doing the ceremonies, never get tired of seeing the people smiling and waving the flag.”

For Louise Kapopo, a nurse from Zambia, the day was extra special – not only had she become an American citizen, it was her birthday, too.

“I was nervous, I almost shed a tear – I did shed tears,” she said. “I am an American!”


Can you pass an American citizenship test?

Applicants for U.S. citizenship must be able to answer from a list of 100 civics questions during an oral test given by a USCIS officer. The officer will ask 10 of the questions and the applicant must be able answer six correctly to pass. Could you?
(All questions, answers and explanations are from USCIS practice exams)

When was the Constitution written?





What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?

pay taxes

serve on a jury

be respectful of others

obey the law

Why does the flag have 13 stripes?

because the stripes represent the number of signatures on the U.S. Constitution

because it was considered lucky to have 13 stripes on a flag

because the stripes represent the original colonies

because the stripes represent the members of the Second Continental Congress

Name one state that borders Mexico.





The House of Representatives has how many voting members?





Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?

to provide schooling

to provide police departments

to issue driver’s licenses

to declare war

Who did the United States fight in World War II?

Japan, Germany, and Italy

Austria-Hungary, Japan, and Germany

Japan, China, and Vietnam

the Soviet Union, Germany, and Italy

We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?





Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.

Colorado River

Ohio River

Rio Grande River

Missouri River

If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?

the Secretary of the Treasury

the Secretary of State

the Speaker of the House

the previous President

Uh oh

Hit the history books!

Uh oh

Hit the history books!

Better study.

We’ll be watching.

Better study.

We’ll be watching.

Passing with flying colors