COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Two hundred and forty people from more than 50 different countries raised their right hands and swore allegiance to America Wednesday morning at the largest naturalization ceremony ever held in Central Ohio.
Federal judges from the Southern District of Ohio convened a special naturalization hearing inside the large meeting room in the Columbus Public Library.
Judge Algenon Marbley told the new citizens that America has often been called a melting pot, with people from different nations blending their ideals and cultures, but it is more aptly described as a mosaic with “pieces layering into each other” to create a giant work of art.
NBC4’s Colleen Marshall, who is the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, was honored to deliver the keynote address. She said people born in this country “often take for granted the great privileges this nation gifted to us. We were born into the freedoms of our Democracy. We have always known the rights enshrined in our Constitution.” But, naturalized citizens have to stop and reflect on those rights; they have to be tested on them, and, “you had to earn your citizenship.”
The youngest of the new citizens is 18 and the oldest is 79. They clutched small American flags as they were given the certificates that mark their citizenship.
Linda Ndeme, who was born in Camaroon, said “Oh, I feel so good. I have been waiting for so many years. I am so proud to be finally American.”
The chief judge of the Southern District, Ed Sargus, said “Many of these people have been waiting for decades for this special day. So for them and their families becoming an American is really one of the most important days of lives.”
Sargus is the grandson of immigrants. “I have on my desk in my judicial chambers my grandfather’s naturalization papers. He was coming from what is now Lebanon, but back then was the Ottoman Empire. So I like to look at that occasionally and remember how happy he would be to see that I’m helping to make new American citizens.”