Thursday, July 3, 2008

New Citizens and a Well-deserved Tribute

The Naturalization Ceremony took place today at 1 p.m. in the Council Chambers inside Middletown's City Hall. 35 People, from places as faraway as Argentina, Brazil, Ghana, Pakistan, China, Russia, the Ukraine, South Africa, Sudan and elsewhere, recited the Oath of Allegiance and heard remarks from CT Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, US Representative Joe Courtney, Attorney Scott Jezek (newly appointed President of the Middlesex County Bar Association), Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano and Presiding Judge Stefan R. Underhill.

Each speaker stated how proud he or she was of the new citizens, several spoke of grandparents who came to this country in the early years of the 20th Century, and mentioned how happy they were to see so many family members of those taking the oath. Secretary Bysiewicz reminded the "newbies" to sign up to vote in this fall's "landmark" election, a sentiment echoed by Rep. Courtney. She also stated tthat people should bring their children to the voting booth. Mayor Giuliano prodded the attendees to get involved in local government because their councilmen or selectmen or mayors would have the biggest effect on their day-to-day lives. Attorney Jezek spoke of his grandmother who came to this country from Czechoslovakia around World War I. She never learned to read or write English but, when she decided tobecome a citizen (at the age of 80), learned enough to pass the tests.

But Judge Underhill's remarks had the strongest impact. He, like the Mayor, told people to get involved because it was one of the "rights" they could best exercise. To paraphrase his sentiments, he said that "Americans do not always agree on the actions of their elected officials" and that "you have the right and the responsibility to let them know how you stand on the major issues." He also intimated that it was not unpatriotic to disagree (does President Bush know this?)

On Monday night, there will be a resolution on the agenda of the Middletown Common Council that will honor Sybil Paton, in Memoriam. Those of us who live in this city and who have grown to love the diversity that we have here should understand Mrs. Paton's role in the growth of the city. She was one of the founders of Wesleyan Potters, one of the organizers of the Middletown Commission of the Arts and a strong advocate for the Russell Library. She endowed a prize in her husband Jack's name at the Library to fund a writing contest. Previously, she had chaired committees for the Library's renovations and revamping the Children's department programming. She helped bring Library Director Arthur Meyers and his excellent assistant Vince Juliano on board, both dedicated to the vision that Sybil helped create for the Library. Even when her illness forced her to resign from the Library Board, she stayed in contact with Board President Deborah Shapiro and Art Meyers.

Though she won awards and received citations for her work, all she really cared about was getting the job done and moving things forward. There are many other women and men who put the growth of this city ahead of personal gain but no one is more deserving of thankful recognition than Sybil Paton.

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