One of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence is on display at the Minnesota History Center. On Tuesday the museum opened a display of the document printed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.
It’s here in Minnesota to help celebrate the state’s sesquicentennial, to be marked this Sunday.
But America got a new beginning, too, just downstairs from the Declaration of Independence this morning. A 129 people from 40 different countries stood in the 3M Auditorium and swore their allegiance to the United States.
They were drawn by love; they fled war, and everything in between.
“In this country, you can become what you want to become if you wish. That’s an incredible opportunity here,” said Adasanya Adelaja, of Brooklyn Park. Originally from Nigeria, he wore his leather U.S. Army jacket to the ceremony: like several others among the newly minted citizens, Adelaja is already an American soldier.
That’s him at left. He quickly made friends of two other African natives at the ceremony — Rahel Desta, of Bloomington, (at center), and William Doup, of St. Cloud (right). She’s originally from Ethiopia. He’s from Sudan. They all followed siblings or parents to America.
“I’m proud to be a citizen of this country, of the greatest nation in the world,” Adelaja said, showing off his citizenship certificate.
A couple rows away, Kamran , a health care manager from Eden Prairie, was sitting alone, the sole immigrant to stand when the USCIS adjudications officer read “Iran” from the roll of countries from which today’s immigrants had come. (He asked that his last name not be used.)
He fled his native country more than 20 years ago. “His parents sent him away,” his wife, Britt said. “They didn’t want him in the Iran-Iraq war.” He’s never gone back.
Kamran came instead to the University of Minnesota and majored in physics. “The alternative was to go fight in the war,” he said. “The way to stay out of that was to go to university, just graduate from high school and go to college, but the colleges were closed for a year or two at a time. Really, the only opportunity was to continue your education. The United States offered me that opportunity. Here I am.”
Kamran, his wife and daughters Catharina and Julia (holding her hand over her face with firm 4-year-old defiance) and son Nicky were all in St. Paul for the occasion, and for cookies and lemonade at a reception in the upstairs rotunda.
It may be true, as the Declaration of Independence’s author Thomas Jefferson said, that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
But the toil of college students, the yearning of mothers for their sons and daughters, a father’s pride and even the heartache of leaving behind family and home – they all help, too, if Wednesday’s crowd at the History Center was any indication.