Home of the Free: Vargas Guest Speaker at May 1 Naturalization Ceremony

Nearly a year after Southeast Missouri State University President Carlos Vargas became a U.S. citizen himself, he will serve as the guest speaker at the May 1 Naturalization Ceremony in Cape Girardeau where 18 immigrants will raise their right hand, and join him as naturalized U.S. citizens.

Vargas also will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and assist U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. in presenting certificates to the newly naturalized U.S. citizens at the ceremony administered by the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Missouri, Southeastern Division. The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Rush Hudson Limbaugh Sr. U.S. Courthouse in downtown Cape Girardeau.

“Having become a citizen just last year, it is a true honor to be invited to make a few remarks during this year’s naturalization ceremony,” Vargas said.

Southeast also will be represented at the ceremony by Trudy Lee, assistant vice president for advancement services and planned giving with the Southeast Missouri University Foundation, who will sing “America the Beautiful” and “The National Anthem.” The Honorable Rodney W. Sippel, chief judge of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, also will present remarks. The motion for citizenship will be given by Larry Ferrell, assistant U.S. attorney and naturalization examiner.

During Independence Day festivities on July 4, 2016, Vargas, a Mexico City native, was among 14 immigrants who became naturalized U.S. citizens during a ceremony held in conjunction with the Great American Fourth of July celebration at the Common Pleas Courthouse.

Dr. Carlos Vargas, left, reacts during last year’s naturalization ceremony as his son, Carlos, a U.S. Marine captain, looks on.

Vargas became the 18th president of Southeast Missouri State University in July 2015. He originally came to the United States as a professor at Kent State and prior to last year’s ceremony, had been a green card holder in this country since 1985. While he thought he may only stay a few years, he began adapting to American culture, started a family, raised his children in this country and has enjoyed a lengthy career in higher education. His children, Amy and Carlos, have held U.S. citizenship from birth.

“I developed a love for this country long ago,” he said, adding “now I feel fully integrated into the fabric of the country that gave me the opportunity to pursue an advanced education, care for my family, and reach levels of achievement that I had never dreamed of as a child.

“I do believe that America is truly a land of opportunity,” Vargas said last year. “As long as you put in the effort, you have so many options. Even though economic conditions are today more challenging than years ago, it is still possible to make your dreams come true.  That is why it is so important to make sure that all children have access to the opportunities that will allow them to develop fully both emotionally and intellectually.”

Vargas has acknowledged that his Hispanic heritage and homeland will always hold a special place in his heart, but he says he’s not much different from earlier immigrants who came to the United States from all parts of the world.

“Those immigrants, like me, are proud of their origins and traditions. I feel the same way,” he said. “And, just like most of those immigrants and their families, I hope that I too have contributed in a positive manner to the advancement of this country.  My work in higher education has helped to shape the future of this country, and my children have also made contributions to society . . . especially, of course, my son, who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the country.”

Vargas’ son, a U.S. Marine captain, has served two tours of duty as part of a Scout Sniper Platoon; the first tour of duty was in Iraq, and the second in Iraq and Afghanistan.