Citizenship ceremony marks new beginnings

Jon Carnell and Sarah Augusthy say they’re living the American dream.

For Carnell, that means turning a directionless life in England into pursuit of a medical career in the United States.

For Augusthy, it means working in a field she loves in a country that sheltered her when her family fell on hard times in India.

Today, both will take that dream a step further by becoming U.S. citizens. They’re among the nine Douglas County residents included in the more than 150 people from 49 nations that will take an oath of citizenship during a ceremony at the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University.

“I consider this my home,” said Carnell, 24. “I made a lot of friends here. I see my future here. It just made sense to become a citizen.”

The Dole Institute, with its large stained-glass flag and beams from the World Trade Center, will play host to a naturalization ceremony for the second straight year. Last year, the ceremony fell on the second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. This year, it falls on the eve of the third anniversary.

Because of space restrictions, the 2 p.m. ceremony is open only to the participants and invited guests. U.S. District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum, a 1970 KU graduate, will preside over the ceremony, which will include speeches by Chancellor Robert Hemenway and U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia, a 1982 KU graduate.

‘Success is inevitable’

Different paths have brought Carnell and Augusthy to today’s ceremony.

Carnell grew up in Coney Weston, a village of 150 about 80 miles north of London. A year after graduating from high school, he moved to Lawrence with his family after his parents were transferred to jobs in Kansas City with Danisco-Cultor, a food ingredient company.

In a ceremony today Jon Carnell will be one of nine Douglas County residents who will be sworn in as new U.S. citizens. The ceremony will be at the Dole Institute of Politics on Kansas University's west campus.

“I was excited,” Carnell said. “Most 17-year-olds, their parents tell them they have to move and they’d be upset. It was America — everything I’d seen in the movies, like big cars, baseball and American football. That was my take on America.”

In England, Carnell said, he had tried college but wasn’t sure he was cut out for the demanding British higher education system.

When he moved to Kansas, he enrolled at KU to study chemistry. It was a good fit, and in May he will finish his master’s degree. He’s hoping to start medical school next August.

“I’m pretty confident I wouldn’t have done this in England,” he said. “I think success is inevitable if you put in the work in the U.S.”

Carnell’s parents, Jim and Diane, and his sister, Holly, live in Lawrence. Holly became a U.S. citizen earlier this year.

“In the U.S., you have the time and money and space to define yourself,” Carnell said. “You have the opportunity to make yourself what you want.”

Land of opportunity

For Augusthy, 25, the United States is the only home she can remember.

She was born in southwest India, but her father died when she was young. Her mother decided shortly after to move to the United States.

“She had me and less than $10 in her pocket,” Augusthy said. “The whole story is almost really like an American dream story. This would give her an opportunity she wouldn’t have had in India.”

Augusthy grew up in Lenexa and Overland Park, attending Shawnee Mission Northwest High School. She attended the University of Missouri and now is the morning news anchor at KSNT-TV in Topeka.

She and her husband, Reggie, another native of India, live in Lawrence. Reggie has been an American citizen since age 12.

Augusthy said she had thought of becoming a citizen for years but made it her New Year’s resolution this year.

“Most importantly in 2004, I wanted to vote,” she said. “As a journalist, I’m involved in the political system, and it makes you admire the freedoms that are available to us in this country. As a permanent resident, I can do almost anything. The one thing I was not afforded was the right to vote.”

Augusthy said she expected today’s ceremony to be an emotional one, especially because it falls near the anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

“I think it’ll hit me when we say the Pledge of Allegiance,” she said. “I’ve definitely identified myself with the American culture. My skin color, my eating habits and my celebratory experiences show my Indian culture. But on that day, I remember feeling I was tied to my American countrymen.”