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‘Now they are my people’: Army member from Dayton one of 99 to become U.S. citizen in Hamilton

Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2019 @ 4:00 AM

The U.S. Army soldier, Spec. Merchisedeck Uwumwaml, born in Rwanda, and lives in Dayton, stands to announce his name during a naturalization ceremony Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Miami University Regionals in Hamilton. For the second year, 99 new Americans took their oath of citizenship at the ceremony. More than 440 people have taken the oath of citizenship at Miami University Regionals in Hamilton since 2015. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
The U.S. Army soldier, Spec. Merchisedeck Uwumwaml, born in Rwanda, and lives in Dayton, stands to announce his name during a naturalization ceremony Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Miami University Regionals in Hamilton. For the second year, 99 new Americans took their oath of citizenship at the ceremony. More than 440 people have taken the oath of citizenship at Miami University Regionals in Hamilton since 2015. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

U.S. Army Reserve Spec. Melchisedeck Uwumwami joined the military to defend the United States and its citizens.

On Tuesday, the 28-year-old Rwanda native and Dayton resident became one of those citizens.

“This is a really great opportunity, to be an American citizen and to share the same values as Americans,” said Uwumwami, a member of the 961st Engineer Company in Trenton. “As a U.S. Army member, I’m happy to protect the people, and now they are my people.”

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PHOTOS: More than 400 people in 5 years have become naturalized citizens at Miami Hamilton

Uwumwami took the oath of U.S. citizenship in a naturalization ceremony with 98 others at Miami University Regionals campus in Hamilton. The ceremony was filled with pomp and circumstance, including a performance by the Miami University Men’s Glee Club and Butler County Sheriff’s Pipe and Drum Corps. The Butler County Sheriff’s Color Guard presented the American and Ohio flags.

More than 34,300 will become citizens in 316 naturalization ceremonies across the country between Sept. 13 and 23, including 45 ceremonies on Tuesday, which was Constitution Day, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Between 700,000 and 750,000 people are naturalized annually, according to the USCIS.

“I know I have a lot of opportunities now, including voting, including protecting other Americans, including being loyal to the United States,” Uwumwami said. “I’ll continue to protect the Army’s values, and protecting American citizens.”

The naturalization ceremony is the marquee event for Miami University Regionals’ Citizenship and Democracy Week on the Hamilton and Middletown campuses. Since 2015, 441 people have taken the oath of citizenship.

RELATED: 5 things to know about the U.S. Constitution

Uwumwami said America is “a country of diversity,” and Miami University President Greg Crawford told the crowd of new citizens, their family and other guests that diversity is the “foundation of our strength” and “a vital source of creativity and innovation.”

“The challenges in our workplace are too complex and too big for any one person or any one discipline to solve them alone,” he said. “We need a multitude of voices … and you are many of those voices.”

U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio Magistrate Judge Stephanie Bowman presided over the oath of citizenship.

“American citizenship is a great gift that represents the dreams, aspirations and struggles of centuries before us,” said Bowman, a former immigration attorney, asking the new citizens to exercise their rights to vote, free speech and serve on juries, and become involved in their communities.

PAST NATURALIZATION CEREMONIES:

• 99 become American citizens at Hamilton ceremony in 2018

• 85 take oath for citizenship at Miami University Hamilton in 2017

• 86 people become new American citizens during Butler County ceremony in 2016

• 72 new American citizens take oath at Miami Hamilton in 2015

Citizenship and Democracy Week continues this week on the Hamilton and Middletown campuses, including a push to register people to vote now through Tuesday.

After the ceremony, the new citizens had their first opportunity to register to vote. About 50 of the 99 new citizens filled out the registration paperwork after the ceremony, according to Butler County Board of Elections. Those who live outside Butler County will have forms sent to their home counties.

Miami U.’s Citizenship and Democracy Week events

Today thorough Friday: Democracy Wall and Voter Registration. The Hamilton and Middletown campuses will have a Democracy Wall (outside of Rentschler Hall in Hamilton and adjacent to Hawk Haven in Johnston Hall in Middletown) to share thoughts on the question: “What does it mean to be a good citizen?”

People also can register to vote in November’s general election at the Regionals’ Center for Social Impact, at 105 Mosler Hall in Hamilton and Verity Lodge in Middletown.

Today: The school will present the award-winning 2019 Sundance Film Festival documentary that follows the journey of four long-shot candidates who ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. The event is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Miami Regionals Hamilton Downtown Center, 221 High St., Hamilton.

Today: Hear brief presentations by students on some of the key civil liberties issues that face Americans today. Presentations are from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Jack Rhodes Study in Mosler Hall on the Hamilton campus.

Thursday: Give blood at the Community Blood Center Bloodmobile from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Campus Drive parking lot on the Hamilton campus. Sign up for an appointment at donortime.com/donor/schedules/drive_schedule/62067.

Thursday: The Miami Regionals Libraries and the Center for Social Impact will unveil the Regionals’ new one-stop shops for voter and community engagement. The event is from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Rentschler Library (Hamilton) and Gardner-Harvey Library (Middletown).

Thursday: Co-authors of Miami University’s Ohio Civic Health Index Report will discuss the state of democracy in Ohio, and how residents can get more involved. The presentation is from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at 203 Phelps Hall on the Hamilton campus.