Deputy SOS Suzanne Staiert: “That sense of duty toward country”

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert tells a group of new citizens why she feels such a bond with them during a naturalization ceremony Wednesday in Centennial. (SOS photo)
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert tells a group of new citizens why she feels such a bond with them during a naturalization ceremony Wednesday in Centennial. (SOS photo)
Immigrants take the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony Wednesday in Centennial. (SOS photo)
Immigrants take the oath of allegiance Wednesday, including Simon Jones, center, of Australia. To his left is his wife, Catalina Poveda of Colombia. She is due July 3rd “so there is a chance of having a very American baby on July 4th,” Jones said. (SOS photo)

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert told a group of new U.S. citizens Wednesday there’s a reason she feels such a bond with them when she attends naturalization ceremonies.

‘My father and mother met on a U.S. campus. My father’s Iranian, my mother’s American,” she said. “When we were very young we went over to Iran for a few years and came back right before my fifth birthday. My father didn’t come back with us.”

Staiert informed 79 immigrants from 33 countries, from Australia to Mexico to Zambia, that she and her two siblings and her mother eventually settled in Wyoming.

“As you can imagine, because of the relations between Iran and the U.S., it was a kind of a hard place to be from when we were growing up,” she told the attentive crowd. “When I was in middle school we had the hostage crisis. When I was in college there was Iran-Contra.”

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“You are now citizens of the greatest country … “

Rachel Kalonda, who immigrated from the Congo, proudly holds up her paperwork after becoming an American. (SOS photo)
Rachel Kalonda, who immigrated from the Congo, proudly holds up her paperwork after becoming an American. (SOS photo)

By Lynn Bartels and Julia Sunny

In a ceremony marked by elation and emotion, 79 people from 33 countries lifted their right hands Wednesday and become citizens of the country they love.

“I am so grateful to be in the United States,” said Rachel Kalonda, 48, who is from the Congo. “I feel so great. I start a new experience today.”

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert shared her own experience with the new Americans. Her father is Iranian and she briefly lived in Iran as a young child.

Staiert encouraged the immigrants to register to vote so they can participate.

“It may not be the election that you’ve dreamed of voting in in November,” she said to laughter, showing that the newest citizens are up on current events. “Congratulations to all you. You now are citizens of the greatest country that you could be citizens of.”

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“I recited the words you all have said”

By Keara Brosnan

A new group of U.S. citizens oohed and aahed when they learned the government official in front of them had once been standing in their /zapaptos/babouche/shoes.

Judd Choate, director of elections for the Colorado secretary of state, and his two daughters, Mahlon and Jackie, during a citizenship ceremony in Centennial. (Photo by Keara Brosnan)
Judd Choate, director of elections for the Colorado secretary of state, and his two daughters, Mahlon and Jackie, during a citizenship ceremony in Centennial. (Photo by Keara Brosnan)

Judd Choate, elections director for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, welcomed 46 new citizens originating from 20 countries during an event at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ office in Centennial last week.

“I just want to tell you as a citizen how proud I am of all of you. This is an amazing accomplishment that all of you have come to in your life and I think it’s something you should feel proud about,” Choate said. “I think it speaks incredibly well of you that you’ve put in the time and dedication to get to this moment in your lives.”

He pointed to his two daughters, Mahlon Fox-Wallick, 15, and Jackie Choate, 9, who was born in Jiangmen, China.

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Secretary Wayne Williams: Helping other nations is our responsiblity

By Keara Brosnan

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, back row in the center, and elections director Judd Choate, back row left, with foreign dignitaries who are part of the International Visitor Leadership Program.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, back row in the center, and elections director Judd Choate, back row left, with foreign dignitaries who are part of the International Visitor Leadership Program.

The cost of elections equipment was one concern of international dignitaries who met with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams Tuesday.

The leaders, who represented 23 different countries, are part of the International Visitor Leadership Program organized by the U.S. Department of State.

“Helping other nations and their elected officials is our responsibility,” Williams said.

Ukraine, Malaysia, Chile, Argentina, Pakistan, Nigeria, New Zealand and Vietnam were among the participating countries.

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Medal of Honor recipient inspires at Healing Our Heroes event

Congressman Mike Coffman, U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser and Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry at the Healing our Heroes gala Friday in Denver. Petry was the keynote speaker.
Congressman Mike Coffman, U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser and Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry at the Healing our Heroes gala Friday in Denver. Petry was the keynote speaker.

For the second time in my life, I’ve shaken the hand of a Medal of Honor recipient.

The first time was in the early 1980s when I worked for The Gallup Independent in Gallup, N.M., and got to know Heroshi Miyamura. The Gallup native, known as “Hershey,” in 1951 in Korea killed more than 50 enemy soldiers, including hand-to-hand fighting with a bayonet, while ordering his men to fall back.

Hershey Miyamura.
Hershey Miyamura.

The next time was at the Healing our Heroes luncheon Friday in Denver when I met former Army Ranger Leroy Petry, who also is a New Mexico native. I didn’t realize until I went to shake his hand that he lost his right one while throwing a live grenade away from his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan in 2008.

Petry served as the keynote speaker for the Healing our Heroes gala, which raised money to help injured veterans receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“I thank God every morning that I’m here,” Petry said. “So many paid the ultimate price or suffered horrific injuries.”

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