Enlisted in the U.S. Army, Max Chadic vowed to defend a country that he wasn’t a citizen of. But on Wednesday—a day before his 29th birthday—that changed.
Chadic was in a crowd of 126 peers from across the globe who swore an oath of allegiance and became naturalized U.S. citizens during a ceremony held at the Utah State Capitol.
Dressed in camo fatigues, Chadic, who left Haiti in 2014, was thrilled to become a citizen after two years of serving in the military, which had been a long-time goal.
“That was something I was into since I was in Haiti. When I moved here I found the opportunity to join,” Chadic told City Weekly after the program. A stranger approached Chadic, thanked him for his service and offered a hug.
Initially, he moved to the U.S. to learn English at Brigham Young University. He expected to return eventually to his home country but wound up in basic training instead. Now, his sights are set on Utah Valley University’s aviation program.
“I think it will help me in the military,” he said.
Naturalization ceremonies typically occur once a quarter in the Capitol. Stories, like Chadic’s, “are what make America great,” former House representative Sophia DiCaro told the crowd and their families.
DiCaro shared the story of her mother, who immigrated from Japan. Her mother spent hours studying for the citizenship test, and in the process learned “more about American civics than a lot of Americans” know, she said.
What most excited her mother was the opportunity to vote, DiCaro said.
House Speaker Greg Hughes, whose ancestors escaped an Irish potato famine in the 1860s, urged the new citizens to register to vote and participate in the democratic process. Hughes refers to his vocal constituents as “opinion leaders.” He invited the citizens to make their concerns known to their representatives in the same fashion.
“You worked to get here. Sometimes we take it for granted and don’t appreciate the blessings of this country. You remind why this is such a strong country,” Hughes said. “You need to share that with us, share it with citizens, share it with elected officials and be opinion leaders.”
Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, agreed.
“Throw yourself into the public dialogue and be an owner of this enterprise,” he said.
New U.S. citizens at Wednesday’s ceremony came from the following countries: