By Juan Siliezar

The first thing Dean Bniskiwitz did as an American citizen was hug his 9-year-old son. Jeff Mulumba thought about the 16 years it took him to get to this point. Ashok B. Dhanuk, an immigrant originally from Nepal, pondered the privilege and responsibility of being an American citizen, while Marta Tomascewska, originally from Poland, felt a sense of finally being home.

“You feel more connected. You feel a part of something,” said Tomascewska, who came to the U.S. five years ago shortly after marrying her husband, an American citizen. This was the final step in truly starting a life here, she said.

“Now I am here not as a guest but as a citizen,” she said.

It was a sentiment Tomascewska shared with 42 other people whose various paths became American stories when they were sworn in as citizens at a naturalization ceremony in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). In front of friends, family, and members of the Harvard community, they raised their right hands and swore an oath of allegiance to the U.S., pledging to uphold its ideals and carry out their new civic responsibilities.

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