Arto Pihlajisto, Cub River, was among the 42 people who gathered at Yellowstone National Park last Thursday, Sept. 5, to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Untied States that makes them U.S. citizens. The candidates came from Australia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Moldova, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine, and have been living in Idaho, Utah Wyoming and Montana.
Pihlajisto, who has lived in Franklin County since 1995, said he decided to become a U.S. resident because of his love for the country. “I love what the country stands for as far as what the constitution says regarding the principles of liberty,” he said.
He first came to the United States as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving in Salt Lake and Southern Utah. He and another young man from his home town, Finland, both received missionary calls to southern Utah. “That’s where I really fell in love with not just the country, but the people of the Rocky Mountain West,” he said. “I don’t think you could find a better place in the world.” By the time he arrived home following his mission, he had already been accepted to study at what was then called Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho.
During that time, he got a job running the Snake River for the Grand Teton National Park, and met Rebecca King of Moore, Idaho, while attending a family home evening event at church. They soon married, then began attending school at Utah State University, where he graduated in finance and earned his pilot’s license.
When the time came that they wanted to purchase a home, they found themselves in Franklin County. They raise alfalfa on their farm in Preston and have a home in Cub River. The couple has made a life in real estate and entrepreneurial ventures. The couple built and sold American Lending, and now operates Global Trading and Investing — a consulting company, and Treble Hammocks.
“This is the best place in the world,” he said of his new country. “Having the liberty to make whatever you want out of your life,” is why he feels that way. “You can pursue your dreams. What I’ve achieved over here I could never have done in Finland. I wanted to be a business owner. In Europe, you’d be taxed to death, just like Obama tried to do,” he said.
Before making the decision to become an American Citizen, Arto and Rebecca spent some time back in Finland as residents. After six months, they returned to the United States. Arto was dismayed with how far Europe has gone towards socialism.
“What I knew of Finland was through the eyes of a child. I realized how much red tape that is part of socialism. People here that think American should go towards socialism — they should go live there for a while.” Arto laughs when he is told that a recent United Nations report named Finland the “happiest nation” in the world.
“That’s a bunch of socialist propaganda,” he said. “They are dirt poor, have the highest rates of depression and suicide and sugar diabetes.”
Arto is passionate about his new nationality because of his love of liberty. Recently, he was asked to be the president of a new Franklin County Chapter of the John Birch Society. He and Rebecca spent some time investigating what the society promoted, and joined after determining its support of the constitution. They have planned an open house for the society for Oct. 11, he said.
As for the ceremony, “they literally pulled out all the stops,” said Arto. Everybody just keep telling me that I sound like an American and believe like an American, and wholeheartedly support everything that this country stands for, so, this has been home for a long time, and it was just time to make it official,” he said.
“It’s about time,” laughed Rebecca, but she too was impressed with the ceremony. “It was amazing how stirring it was while the oath was going on. Just the way it swelled your heart ... how you feel when something good is happening,” she said.
The couple headed straight to Denver, and Monday Arto held in his hand, “a brand new US Passport with my name. It warms my heart,” he said.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalized more than 757,000 people in fiscal year 2018.