MTSU will celebrate Constitution Day on Monday, Sept. 17, by hosting a rare naturalization ceremony held outside Nashville for new Middle Tennessee citizens — and two MTSU students will be among the 300 people taking the oath of citizenship.
The university celebrates the document’s 1787 signing every year with special events and programs, including printing portions of the Constitution’s first 10 amendments — the Bill of Rights — on MTSU’s replica 18th-century Franklin-era printing press at Walker Library. The 2012 celebration, however, is even more special, in commemoration of the 225th anniversary of the Constitution’s signing.
“Constitution Day has grown exponentially on our campus since MTSU began celebrating it in 2005, following the 2004 Congressional legislation that established it,” said Dr. Mary A. Evins, an associate professor of history and coordinator of MTSU's American Democracy Project. “We use the day to draw students’ and the community’s attention to the Constitution and citizenship. The day is focused on civic learning.
“We have aspired for years to bring a naturalization ceremony to our university, and we are so honored that the U.S. District Court graciously agreed to allow MTSU to be the site of this large combined ceremony.”
The Sept. 17 ceremony formally begins at 2 p.m. inside MTSU’s Murphy Center, where the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, will be called into session. Magistrate Judge Joe B. Brown will preside over the court session.
Chief Justice Gary R. Wade of the Tennessee Supreme Court will present a keynote address. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service will then administer the new citizens’ oaths of national allegiance.
Each of the new citizens will receive a voter registration form from the Rutherford County Election Commission, a personal copy of the U.S. Constitution from the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America and an American flag from representatives of two local chapters of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.
The two MTSU students who will become citizens are Tammy Li, a freshman nutrition and food-science major from Smithville, Tenn., and Mayank N. Patel, a senior from Knoxville majoring in genetics and biotechnology.
MTSU’s Constitution Day celebration includes readings of the document by students, faculty, staff and other volunteers across campus throughout the morning of Sept. 17. The civic learning programs will culminate in a final live reading of the Constitution inside Murphy Center beginning at 12:30 p.m., which will be streamed live online at http://itsc3.fsa.mtsu.edu/itsc/flash.
“We hope that the simulcast will be accessed broadly on Sept. 17,” Evins said. “We are providing the online feed so that not only can the new citizens’ families across the globe have the pleasure of seeing their family members become Americans but also so that we can showcase how the United States proudly builds its citizenry from every nationality, ethnicity, creed and language group from around the world, as we have done since settlers began making our shores their home in the 1600s.
“We also hope that school children and community members who cannot attend the ceremony in person will be able to watch online,” the professor continued. “MTSU is providing the webcast as an open-access educational tool.”
Seating for the ceremony will begin at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 17. Families, friends and other members of the public should enter Murphy Center through the upper-concourse north doors — facing the tennis courts and Greenland Drive — and choose seats in the stadium-seating levels of the building. Only the new citizens, special guests and event officials will be allowed on the Hale Arena floor.
A portion of the Greenland Drive parking lot will be reserved for those attending the ceremony.
Foreign citizens or nationals are granted U.S. citizenship after they meet the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Prospective citizens may apply for naturalization if they have lived permanently in the United States for at least five years and meet all other eligibility requirements, including being at least 18 years old, a green-card holder who's able to read, write and speak English and understand U.S. history and civics, and "a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution …."
Similar requirements are outlined for spouses and children of U.S. citizens and people with qualifying service in the U.S. military.
Each year, USCIS welcomes approximately 680,000 citizens during naturalization ceremonies across the United States and around the world.
Tennessee’s ceremonies traditionally are held in the federal courthouse in one of the state’s three grand divisions, but the number of applicants for U.S. citizenship has increased so much in recent years that ceremonies are sometimes conducted on university campuses and other public sites. Middle Tennessee citizens usually are naturalized at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District, housed in the Estes Kefauver Federal Building in downtown Nashville.
“MTSU sincerely thanks the U.S. District Court for the many efforts required in moving its court proceedings to Murfreesboro for the day,” Evins said. “We ask that our students, faculty, neighbors and friends turn out in large numbers to celebrate Constitution Day with us, observe personally this uniquely American process, welcome warmly our new fellow citizens and grow in pride and respect for the core value of American diversity.”