“Welcome To America!”

BY TRIMELLA CHANEY, The Battle Of Shallow Ford Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution

This is a phrase we don’t often hear in today’s world, except perhaps in a comedian’s routine. However, there is a very special place in Winston-Salem on a very special day, where people joyfully welcome our country’s newest citizens…at the Immigration Ceremony in the square at Old Salem on July 4th.

I strongly urge you to attend. It will boost your patriotic pride and strengthen your optimism for our country’s future, regardless of your political affiliations or lack thereof.

The ceremony itself is from 10 to 11 am and is enhanced with patriotic music by the Salem Band and an inspiring speaker (often a naturalized citizen). But the most dramatic part of the event is seeing the people walk across the stage to receive their citizenship papers. Most of them wave their small American flags as they cross. It is truly touching to witness their excitement and joy as they receive their citizenship certificate. Proud families and friends applaud and take pictures.

After each person has received his all-important documentation, the newest American citizens and all the guests are treated to lemonade and cookies, provided by Old Salem and served by The Battle of Shallow Ford, The Old North State, and The Colonel Joseph Winston Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

There are many countries represented. The number can vary from 25 to over 100. Old Salem Museum and Gardens, Inc. loans the venue for this special day to the Immigration Office from Charlotte.   Sometimes there are also many styles of dress.

I remember one year seeing a striking couple dressed all in white Kenyan dress complete with headdresses. An onlooker may have thought it was their wedding day, but it was just as special to them to become American citizens that day, and they dressed for it.   It is truly a geography lesson to hear the names of all the countries, and a feast for the eyes to see some of the costumes. It is a powerful testament to the ideals and philosophy of our American democracy. It is a living history lesson.

Salem has the honorable distinction of being the first to celebrate our country’s Independence Day. Thanks to those record-keeping Moravians, we know that they prayed and thanked God that the war was over. (The national anthem had not even been written yet!) Although the early Moravians were pacifists, they served the cause of freedom by supplying goods and paying taxes to the new country. Having come to America seeking religious freedom, those Moravians must have enjoyed celebrating their new country on July 4, 1783!

Come celebrate with us this year. It is a glorious day to be an American!