Professor Zahi “Zee” Haddad spoke recently at the Naturalization Ceremony at the Springfield Armory.

More than 200 people from around the region took the oath of allegiance to become United States citizens at a ceremony conducted on the grounds of the Armory Museum at Springfield Technical Community College on Sept. 15.

The following are Professor Haddad’s remarks:

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of Dr. John B. Cook president of Springfield Technical Community College, as well as our faculty and staff, I would like to welcome you and congratulate you on this milestone. My name is Professor Zee Haddad, and I have been teaching here at STCC for the past 38 years. I teach some of the most popular and easy courses at the college – like Calculus, Physics and Engineering. You know – the fun ones that every student wants to take.

Today is a great day for you and your families and it is an even greater privilege for me to welcome you to your swearing in ceremony. What a remarkable journey all of you have made.  I know the struggle and the challenges that you all endured to get here. I know that because I traveled the same path before becoming a U.S. citizen myself 32 years ago. I also started right here at this campus, enrolling as a student in the English for second language program, and graduating from STCC before later earning my Bachelors and Masters Degrees.

But first and foremost I was raised by a single mom in Jordan.  At the age of 17, I left my family in pursuit of a better life for me and my family.   Speaking minimal English created an obstacle for me of becoming an engineer. That did not stop me but made me more determined to reach my goal. I worked 2 jobs to put myself through college. I was a dishwasher and a bus boy, and today, I am a Department chair of the Engineering and Physical sciences here at STCC.  I have been married for 36 years to a beautiful women and I am the proud father of two children who have graduated from Yale University and MIT.

Becoming a citizen of this great country will give you the chance to become whoever and whatever you want to be. I want to encourage you not to forget your hardships and the path you took to get here. Your history has shaped you into the individuals you are today and gives you the unique opportunity to leave your own personal stamp on the communities around you. This can be as challenging as it is exciting, but you should never stop trying to make things better. I hope you will think carefully about your responsibilities as U.S. citizens – so you will become involved in the life of the community around you. I urge you to take full advantage of the many opportunities citizenship provides you. Remember your past, and leave your mark on this great country. The fulfillment I get teaching students, and the joy I have in our classrooms, is something I have found to be remarkable. In turn, I hope with your citizenship, you now turn all of your hard work and persistence into something that brings you great joy.

Congratulations, and again, on behalf of the college, I wish you well as you leave here today as citizens of the United States of America. Thank you and congratulations again.