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A star of ‘Hamilton’ treks from Broadway to Brooklyn to hail newest Americans

September 19, 2016 By James Harney Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Okieriete Onaodowan, who stars as James Madison and Hercules Mulligan in the hit Broadway play "Hamilton," was the keynote speaker at this year's Citizenship Day ceremonies at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse. Eagle photos by James Harney

Actor Okieriete Onaodowan Speaks at Constitution Day Naturalization Ceremony at Brooklyn Federal Courthouse

One of the stars of “Hamilton” made a special appearance in Brooklyn Friday and — to borrow a line from that hit Broadway play — the Ceremonial Courtroom at 225 Cadman Plaza East was “the room where it happened.”

Nearly 60 new American citizens were naturalized in a special Constitution Day ceremony at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse commemorating the Sept. 17, 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution.

In her opening remarks, Brooklyn Federal Court Chief Judge Dora L. Irizarry, said, “For immigrants, citizenship is the realization of a dream. The Brooklyn Bridge, just a short distance from this building, was the dream of a German immigrant, realized with the help of other immigrants.”

After they took the oath “to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America,” the new citizens heard words of praise and encouragement from actor Okieriete Onaodowan — the son of Nigerian immigrants — who stars as James Madison and Hercules Mulligan in the smash Broadway play “Hamilton.”

The man his fellow performers call “Oak” commended the newly-naturalized Americans on their choice.

“We’re at a vulnerable time in America; many wounds are being poked at, and we’re trying to heal them,” Onaodowan said. “But out of all the countries and places you could have chosen to call home, you chose here.”

The actor told his audience, “Now that you are an American citizen, you’ll experience the joy of being in a country where you can live the life you want. The First Amendment gives you the right to speak up…to write your congressman, your governor, your senators and tell them if you feel something isn’t right.”

Onaodowan added that “there was one American who was not afraid to speak up, and that American was Alexander Hamilton. He was an American who dedicated his life to making America the best it can be. That is what it means to be American.”

In addition to “Oak,” the new citizens viewed videotaped greetings from President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

“I am proud to welcome you as new citizens of this country,” Obama said. “I ask that you use your freedom to enrich this country through your contributions.”

And Justice Sotomayor noted that “Leaving your native country, leaving behind family and friends, is not easy, and I commend you for the sacrifices you have made. The diversity of this country is its greatest strength.”

One of the 56 proud new Americans was Kenneth Laxamana, 26, of Elmhurst, Queens, who works as a cook in a Manhattan restaurant.

Laxamana, a native of the Philippines, explained that “half of my relatives were born here, and I have  always wanted to know what it felt like to be an American. I got my green card and I waited five years to naturalize, but now that I’m finally an American citizen, I can say that it was worth waiting for.”

 

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