68 take the pledge, become U.S. citizens

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Ismail Abouwafia didn't know anyone when he moved to Pittsburgh.

But a year after he arrived, he ran into an old friend in an Oakland mosque whom he hadn't seen since his high school days in Egypt eight years ago.

"It was amazing," Mr. Abouwafia, a North Side software quality manager, said. "He's the only friend I have here in the U.S."

Mr. Abouwafia, 30, was naturalized exactly four years ago. He watched while his friend, Mohammed Abdellah, became a naturalized citizen Friday afternoon at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland with 67 other applicants representing 34 countries from Australia to Vietnam.

Mr. Abdellah, 30, said he's glad to be a naturalized citizen, but "I really want my wife to come as soon as possible."

An aspiring veterinarian, Mr. Abdellah flies to Egypt every three or four months to visit his wife.

He says he came to the U.S. because he "always had a thing for horses," and after studying veterinary medicine at Cairo University, he decided he was more likely to find work here.

"Everything in Egypt is bad," Mr. Abdellah, of North Side, said. "People don't have money to spend on their pets."

At a ceremony that included 344 Aquinas Academy students who cheered on their teacher, new citizen and featured speaker, Juan Mata, the candidates were congratulated and reminded that with citizenship comes certain obligations.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Philip Ignelzi along with U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, encouraged the newly minted citizens to reflect on these new responsibilities.

"Most of us will not be asked to render the extraordinary service to our country that we see in these halls and plaques and that is military service -- and even maybe injury or death in defending our democratic principles," Mr. Ignelzi said. "But each day you will have the opportunity to serve our country in the little things we do each day, doing the ordinary events of every day with extraordinary effort."

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Alex Zimmerman: azimmerman@post-gazette.com, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @AGZimmerman.


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