Dutchess County Clerk Bradford Kendall joined with Dutchess County Supreme Court Justice Maria Rosa in presiding over a naturalization ceremony on Friday, April 7 at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House. Some 43 individuals from 25 different countries took the Oath of Allegiance to officially become United States citizens.

In a theater filled with state and local dignitaries as well as family and friends, 43 people stood up, raised their right hand and repeated the following:

I hereby declare on oath that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince or potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen. That I will support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic. That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law. That I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law. That I will perform work of national importance under civil direction when required by law and that I take this obligation freely without mental reservation or purpose of evasion, so help me God.

And just like that, Dutchess county welcomed 43 new United States citizens.

Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro and Bardavon Executive Director Chris Silva both took a few minutes of microphone time to congratulate the new countrymen prior to keynote speaker Chef Dafna Mizrahi, a vibrant 26-year-old Dutchess County Restauranteur and winner of the Food Network's cooking show, Chopped.

Mizrahi told the new citizens of her childhood having been born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico before moving to Atlanta as a young child. Explaining that anything is possible, Mizrahi excitedly told of her experiences being able to attend the Culinary Institute of America at the age of 18.

One new citizen is no stranger to the United States. Keith Varley of Staatsburg has been in the United States for 32 years. Varley was born and raised in Keighley, UK and came to America where he has worked as a carpenter for a few companies over his 32-year stay.

In addition to working to support a wife and child, Varley spent countless hours as a volunteer firefighter and EMT. Varley has lived in Staatsburg for several years and currently serves as the Assistant Chief of the Staatsburg Fire District, a 100% volunteer department that keeps the community safe.

When asked why it took so long to become a citizen, Varley explained that his wife did not want him to give up his UK citizenship and he respected her wishes. Varley's wife passed away 15 months ago and he decided to pursue citizenship here. Some 18 months months after taking all of the necessary steps, including a few interviews with the United States Department of Homeland Security, it is now official and Keith Varley said that his new citizenship "makes me feel fulfilled."

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