Churchill Elangwe-Preston raised his right hand Friday and took the oath of citizenship. It was a very emotional day for the new business owner who is a native of Cameroon.
Elangwe-Preston, 45, of Waterville came to the United States 20 years ago as a student. This month he started a coffee roasting business, Mbingo Mountain Coffee, using beans grown in Africa.
That kind of entrepreneurship is what has brought generations of immigrants to this country, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker said during the ceremony held in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Walker welcomed 25 new citizens from 15 countries: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Burundi, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, France, Iceland, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, Syria and Ukraine. Those are the countries the new citizens came to the U.S. from but not necessarily where they were born.
Friday’s was the first naturalization ceremony held in Bangor in three years due to the coronavirus pandemic. The last one was held March 6, 2020, at Bangor High School, when 34 people became citizens.
“It has been a journey to this day,” Waterville business owner Elangwe-Preston said after the citizenship ceremony. “It was not always a smooth ride. There have been bumps in the road, but Americans have been so nice to me.”
Alphonse Mpunga Katshipi Wa Tshiswaka (center), home county of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with 24 other people from 15 different countries take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony in Bangor on Friday. This was the first naturalization ceremony conducted in three years in Bangor. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
To apply for U.S. citizenship, people must: be 18 years old or older; be lawful permanent residents; demonstrate continuous permanent residency for three years if married to a U.S. citizen or five years if not; have been physically present in the United States for 18 months if married to a U.S. citizen or 30 months if not; and have lived for at least three months in the state in which the application is filed.
In welcoming them to their new status, Walker congratulated the citizens and their families, who snapped photos and took videos with their cell phones.
“The duty of a lifetime falls to you now, our newest citizens,” he said. “Be well informed, start a business, continue your education, practice your religion, love your neighbor. It makes no difference what brought you here.
“In the United States it does not matter who you were. It matters who you are,” the judge continued. “So take your place in American history as stewards of the American promise.”
Walker offered the new citizens three words to help them participate in American democracy — grit, gratitude and grace. He also called on them to civility in their political discourse with a quote from Adlai Stevenson II, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1952 and 1956.
“So I encourage you to engage your neighbors and leaders with humility,” Walker said. “And remember, while you may disagree with some of your fellow citizens, they are not your enemies. Abide the truth that we are all in this together if we are to be in it at all.
“By the same token, dare to be unfashionable and think for yourself. But do so with grace. As a candidate for the American presidency said many years ago, ‘Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.’”
Alice Mutombo, 27, holds an American Flag on her copy of the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony in Bangor on Friday. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
Most of those who took the citizenship oath filled out voter registration cards with the help of members of the League of Women Voters of Maine.
Alice Mutombo, 27, of Portland is expecting her first child next month. Now, both the baby’s parents will be citizens, she said after the ceremony. Her husband already is a citizen.
“Now, I can vote because I am a citizen,” Motumbo said. “I feel strong.”
The oath of citizenship: “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; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”