GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - They are thrilled to be Americans. That was the general reaction as nearly two dozen people took the oath of citizenship during a naturalization ceremony at the federal courthouse in Gulfport on Thursday.
They are the faces of hope, with the promise of better days ahead. Nearly two dozen prospective Americans sat quietly in the federal courtroom.
"What you have done today has required courage," said Judge Jennifer Elrod, who presided over the naturalization ceremony. "All of you have taken bold steps to come to the freest nation in the world."
They came from 13 different nations. All gathered here for a common goal: to be called Americans.
"Here it does not matter what your parents did for a living. You can forge your own path with education and hard work. Here you can own your own ideas, and succeed with your entrepreneurism," said Judge Eldro.
Having come through the lengthy naturalization process, they take the oath of citizenship together.
"By being here today, you've already demonstrated that you have the drive, the will and the determination to make the most of your experience as new Americans," said Judge Sul Ozerden.
One by one they came forward, beneath an appropriate symbol, "E Pluribus Unum," "Out of many, one."
"It has been my dream forever. I'm a school teacher. I teach in Ocean Springs High School. I teach French and Spanish. And I'm very proud to teach my American students, too," said Sulemi Velasquez.
Oie Rittichai Godwin said, "For my family and I'm very happy to become a citizen."
She became an American for one important reason.
Susan Garcia Mendez couldn't hide her excitement. It's been a long time coming.
"Twenty-four years of waiting. Finally," she said, "Oh, it's wonderful. More than anything in the whole world."
"I'm so happy today. This is the happiest day of my life," said Gurvir Kaur Rao.
They are happy and proud. The newest members of a patriotic family.
"American has embraced diverse people from all over the world and it has made America a better place. The success of America in fact, is in part, the story of successful immigration," Judge Elrod told the group.
Judge Sul Ozerden told the group he is a part of that "American dream." His father came to this country from Turkey back in 1963, giving his family the opportunity for a better life.