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New Citizen Can't Wait To Cast His First U.S. Vote

JOHN WOIKE | The Hartford Courant

November 02, 2008

Some people in America cannot take voting for granted. Hong Pan is one.

Hong became a U.S. citizen Sept. 17, one of 36 people to gather at Hartford Public Library on Main Street to take part in a naturalization ceremony.

The mechanical engineer who works for Gerber Scientific was raised in Shanghai, China. He came to this country 16 years ago, at the age of 30, to study at Drexel and then at Temple University in Philadelphia. A job brought him first to Danbury and then to Glastonbury, where he lives now with his wife, Chen Wang, and their two daughters, Christine, 10, and Michelle, 7.

It took most of those 16 years for Hong and his wife to attain citizenship, the application process becoming even more complicated after Sept. 11, 2001. Both registered to vote immediately after Hong became a citizen.

"This is the first time I have the right to vote," Hong said. "I can participate in the process instead of just watching on TV."

Hong and his wife supported Sen. Hillary Clinton's candidacy. After voting for Clinton was no longer an option, Hong avidly watched the three presidential debates and spoke with his colleagues at Gerber. The couple have decided to vote for Barack Obama, Hong said.

"We're [a] blue state, so we will be voting for the party. We registered [as] independents, but I told my wife, Connecticut always goes blue, so we will, too. None of the candidates are good enough to lead, so we will vote for the party, at least this time."

If he had the opportunity, what would this new American say to Obama?

"Economy is [the] No. 1 concern, what he will do about jobs."

A presidential election always brings out hundreds of millions of people to participate in something that many are nonchalant about, despite voting being at the core of American democracy.

"I hear the lines will be very long," Hong said. "My wife and I will go together during the day, and we'll bring the kids because they want to see us vote for the first time."

He smiled: "I can't wait."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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