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1,000 Immigrants Celebrate U.S. Citizenship in Star-Spangled Event Friday Morning on Main Street, U.S.A. at Walt Disney World Resort

New citizens attend premiere of 're-Imagineered' Hall of Presidents attraction, now featuring President Barack Obama figure

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (July 3, 2009) /PRNewswire/ — In a stirring celebration of citizenship, more than 1,000 immigrants gathered on Main Street, U.S.A. early Friday to be "sworn in" as American citizens.

And then, as the country kicked off Independence Day weekend, these brand-new Americans attended a premiere performance of the newest Walt Disney World attraction, a "re-Imagineered" Hall of Presidents now featuring a lifelike Audio-Animatronics figure of President Barack Obama.

From more than 100 countries and ranging in age from 18 to 82, the immigrants took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States during a morning ceremony jointly hosted by Disney Parks and Resorts and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

USCIS's highest-ranking official, Acting Deputy Director Michael Aytes, presided over the ceremony on the forecourt of Cinderella Castle. The event featured a welcoming address by Walt Disney World Resort President Meg Crofton, the presentation of the colors, the national anthem, the Oath of Allegiance and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Actor Andy Garcia – a naturalized citizen himself – delivered a keynote address during the ceremony. Garcia, originally from Cuba, is an acclaimed actor known for roles in films as diverse as "The Untouchables," "The Godfather: Part III" and "Ocean's Eleven." The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Tampa-based Senior Airman Brenda Langdon of the U.S. Air Force, an immigrant from Columbia who became a United States citizen during the ceremony.

"This year, Disney parks are asking our visitors 'What Will You Celebrate?'," said Walt Disney World Resort President Meg Crofton in her welcoming address. "And on a weekend when our entire nation celebrates its independence, we are honored to host – and celebrate – 1,000 individuals who are embracing American citizenship."

To cap a star-spangled morning, the new citizens and their family members previewed the Hall of Presidents attraction – which reopens July 4 in the Liberty Square area of Magic Kingdom. The attraction has been closed since Election Day last November for a makeover that included installation of a lifelike Audio-Animatronics figure based on President Obama.

The figure of the country's 44th chief executive – which comes to life with recognizable mannerisms and makes comments that were recorded recently at the White House – is part of an eight-month makeover so significant that the iconic attraction has been retitled The Hall of Presidents: A Celebration of Liberty's Leaders. Other updates to the re-Imagineered attraction which has been entertaining Magic Kingdom guests since 1971:

  • A re-programmed Abraham Lincoln delivers arguably the greatest speech in the history of the presidency – the Gettysburg Address.
  • For the first time in the attraction's history, George Washington stands and delivers a stirring speech.
  • Developed with the assistance of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, the show now tells a moving story of the bond between the presidents and "We, the People," focusing on the chief executives who have guided America through trying, turbulent times.

"Our goal with every major Disney attraction is to completely immerse our guests in a compelling story," said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "The stories associated with the American presidency are some of the most engaging and relevant our guests will hear while they are with us. And, like all great stories, these stories inspire, motivate and teach us to appreciate the challenges and personal triumph that comes with overcoming adversity."

Presentations of the Hall of Presidents show will take place daily beginning July 4 and are included with Magic Kingdom admission. For video of President Obama in the White House Map Room recording his audio track for the Hall of Presidents attraction, consumers may visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/.