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Greensburg museum of American art to serve as backdrop for citizenship ceremony |

Greensburg museum of American art to serve as backdrop for citizenship ceremony

Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
One of 101 candidates from 44 countries exits from the podium with a flag and certificate of citizenship during a naturalization ceremony on Friday, Oct. 23, 2015 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Kovalchick Convention Center-Toretti Auditorium.

In a ceremony almost as old as the nation, 14 new Americans from 13 countries on Wednesday will take the oath of citizenship at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

The 1 p.m. ceremony, which is open to the public, marks the first time a naturalization ceremony has been held outside the Westmoreland County courthouse.

Museum CEO Judith O’Toole said she pitched the idea to Prothonotary Christina O’Brien after hearing about another museum of American art hosting naturalization ceremonies.

Hosting the ceremony in a museum rich in the history of American art seemed like a great way to welcome new citizens to another important aspect of the nation, O’Toole said. She said museum staffers will welcome new citizens and their families to explore exhibits and take photographs by artist Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of George Washington.

“We want them to know the museum is for everyone, not just wealthy people who get dressed up for special events,” she said. “We’d like them to be able to see the country through our artists’ eyes.”

O’Brien jumped at the opportunity.

“It seemed like a nice way for (citizenship candidates) to get out into the community,” she said.

O’Brien said next week’s ceremony will be distinctive in the number of countries represented among the citizenship candidates.

“The most varied groups usually represent no more than three or four countries,” she said.

While the setting may be new, the ceremony will hue to tradition. Common Pleas Judge Rita Hathaway will administer the oath of citizenship. Using a script that has changed slightly over the decades, she will ask each candidate to renounce all foreign powers and defend and protect the constitution of the United States.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or [email protected] or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.

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