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Judge Matthew Brann giving the oathNew US citizen Tom Waffenschmidt with wife Valerie and Judge BrannLLA President Becomes US Citizen

Waffenschmidt gives keynote speech during federal court ceremony

After living in the United States for 30 years and practicing law in Lycoming County since 1991, Lycoming Law Association President Tom Waffenschmidt has become a US citizen.  He joined 32 others in taking the oath on May 30, 2014.

Federal District Judge Matthew Brann presided at the formal ceremony, and administered the oath.  Immigrants who became naturalized citizens came from Austria, Brazil, Cameroon, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Germany, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam and the People's Republic of China.

During the ceremony, the new citizens were given a citizen's almanac and a U.S. Constitution from Judge Brann before being greeted by the local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, who gave each new citizen a small American flag.

Members of the Lycoming County Bar observe the ceremonyMany members of the Lycoming County bar were present to witness the ceremony. It is likely that Tom was the first LLA President to become a citizen after assuming office.  Certainly LLA historian Marshall R. Anspach reported no similar event in his Historical Sketches volume.

During the ceremony, Tom was called upon by Judge Brann to give the keynote speech.  His moving remarks follow:

May it please the court, friends, family, guests and my soon to be fellow Americans my name is Tom Waffenschmidt I’m an attorney from just down the street and I am originally from Germany.

We have traveled a long and sometimes arduous journey to be here today and become citizens of this great country, its wonderful people and culture that we have come to call our home. There are 33 of us today from 16 countries from all corners of the globe, from Australia to Viet Nam.

Tom WaffenschmidtSome of us came here by plane, some of us by boat and others by foot but unless we are one of the first Americans we all came here from somewhere else. And there were millions of immigrants who came before us. The first national census in 1790 showed a recorded population of 4 million. Three-quarters of those came from England. After that, immigrants came from every corner of the world wave after wave.

They came with a desire for a better life, freedom, equality and democracy. They cleared the wilderness, plowed the prairie, tamed the western plains pushing into the Pacific and Alaska.

Immigrants signed their names to the Declaration of Independence. Immigrants helped lay the railroad tracks and build the cities. Immigrants and their descendants fought in two World Wars, helped defeat Nazis and communists. Immigrants and their descendants became pioneers and leaders of industry and society. Some of the more famous and recent immigrants are people like Albert Einstein, George Soros, Henry Kissinger, Yo-Yo Ma, Felix Frankfurter, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Joseph Pulitzer, Madeline Albright to name a few.

And that’s what makes this country unique, great and special. America is a unique community of values, values from every corner of the world. It is not made up of one or two religions but most religions of the world are worshipped here. You can find people from every country, every color of skin and every racial background. Hundreds of languages are spoken here. Show me another country that celebrates St. Patrick’s Days, Cinco de Mayo, Oktoberfest, Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year, Columbus Day and many other traditional holidays the various ethnic groups in this country celebrate.

This country was founded over 200 years ago not on ancient traditions and beliefs, not on conquests or on physical likeness or a language but on beliefs of freedom, justice, equality and democracy for all. And that’s what makes America great.

And if history has taught us anything we know that in America anyone from anywhere can invent, inspire and improve. Just like millions of immigrants before us we not only have an opportunity but an obligation to renew and enrich the American dream and contribute to the cultural, spiritual and intellectual wealth of this country.

Congratulations to you all!

. . . and congratulations to Tom on his achievement.