There were tears of joy flowing Wednesday, May 29, as 29 newly
naturalized citizens from 20 countries were administered the Oath of
Allegiance by Judge Norman Moon at Red Hill. A large tent was set up
on the lawn for the ceremony with everyone invited to the Eugene B.
Casey Education and Event Center afterwards for a delicious buffet
provided by the Patrick Henry Auxiliary.
After administering the Oath, Judge Moon encouraged anyone to come up
to speak who would. “It’s always the best part of the day to hear from
After a little bit of shyness, one young lady broke the ice and
bravely shared her thankfulness at being a citizen. She talked of how
she had been made to feel so very welcome here with wonderful friends
and neighbors, work and school. “They welcomed me and made me feel at
home. I see myself living here forever. I feel at home.” She reminded
her fellow new citizens that the process they have all gone through to
get to this point doesn’t end here. She asked them to be just as
welcoming and helpful to others as possible. “Reciprocate those
feelings. I can’t wait to give back! I congratulate all of you. I’m
thankful to be here. This is a special moment for me and all of you.
It doesn’t end here. We will continue to work for the community. You
can’t change the world, but you can change one person at a time!”
Another gentleman shared his happiness in an often tearful voice as he
praised his friends and neighbors. “I get so emotional sometimes and
start shaking and crying. This is my country!” he exclaimed.
Guest speaker for the occasion was Robel J. Hailu, Senior VP and
Private Client Advisor for Bank of America. He is also a board member
of Patrick Henry’s Red Hill.
Hailu gave a rousing speech full of hope and encouragement for the new
citizens. He talked of being an immigrant himself when he and his
mother came to the United States in 1980 from the other side of the
world to escape the horrors of war. “We lived in South Carolina…and
depended on the kindness of others. I learned the value of giving
back,” he explained while elaborating on how his upbringing led him to
the high-profile career he now has. He talked about how rough it was
for a single parent with limited income. Hailu encouraged the group to
cherish their new duties of enriching their lives as well as others in
the community. He also encouraged them to vote.
An additional treat was also presented when Congressman Denver
Riggleman joined the group to share his own story and thoughts on the
special day. “I’m proud to be here today. This is my first time at Red
Hill and I’m quite emotional thinking about my own family who came
here in 1762 and my wife’s family who came to Jamestown in 1607. We’re
He talked of his time in service when people in foreign countries
would try to give him money to get them to America. “My heart is full.
I lived the American dream too. I was the oldest of eight children and
I can remember my mom putting a sheet over a cardboard box (for a
He and his own wife had some “tight” times early in their marriage and
eventually reached their goal of opening their own distillery. “You
will be valuable members of our country. Remember that I’m your
employee and I’m here to support your commitment to America. I’m proud
to be here and joyful as you are honored here today.”
It’s always inspirational to have Patrick Henry Jolly (Patrick Henry’s
fifth great grandson) speak to the crowd as his famous ancestor. He
reminded the group that America is the land of opportunity where they
can pursue their dreams. Jolly acknowledged that he understood they
all had a variety of reasons to want to be here such as wanting more
opportunities or political freedom. “You see something more. You’ve
seen a land where liberty abounds and you may now experience it first
hand. You can be great and happy here! As you are taking the oath,
countless others are looking to our coast with a wistful and longing
eye. Use your time and effort to be the newest members of the United
This is the 14th year the naturalization ceremony has been held at Red
Hill, something CEO Hope Marstin is proud of. “It serves as a reminder
of the varied makeup of our nation’s citizenry which, through natural
birth or naturalization, weaves the cultural patchwork that is the
To add to the enjoyment of the day, living history interpreters from
the Patrick Henry Auxiliary were on hand to give demonstrations of
making flax and yarn plus share information about Patrick Henry and
his beloved final home in the 18th century.
This occasion also marked the 283nd birthday of this great leader and orator.
Local singer/guitarist Lloyd Holt clearly had fun leading everyone in
a rousing rendition of some patriotic favorites.
Thanks are extended to Charlotte County students who provided some
great music at the start of the event to get everyone in the mood for
a naturalization. The Junior ROTC from Chatham High School always do
an outstanding job of posting and retiring the colors at numerous
events in the area.
Presentation of the applicants was conducted by Assistant U. S.
Attorney, Western District of Virginia Andrew Bassford.
Judge Norman K. Moon is a Senior United States District Judge.
Visit www.RedHill.org or phone 434-376-2044 or 800-514-7463 to get
more information about Red Hill.
For the past 75 years, Patrick Henry’s Red Hill has worked to keep the
spirit of the Voice of the American Revolution alive. Red Hill was
designated by Congress as the Patrick Henry National Memorial in 1986.
Its mission is to inspire a better understanding of Colonial American
history through its educational programs, scholarships to young
adults, and the preservation and restoration of its 600 acres.