Joff Clarke has new U.S. citizenship to celebrate on Thanksgivin - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Joff Clarke has new U.S. citizenship to celebrate on Thanksgiving Day

Joff Clarke and his wife, Michele, celebrate his new citizenship at their business, Bayou View Fitness in Gulfport. (Photo source: WLOX News) Joff Clarke and his wife, Michele, celebrate his new citizenship at their business, Bayou View Fitness in Gulfport. (Photo source: WLOX News)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Joff Clarke has a higher step in his stride;  bigger smile on his face.

The Canadian citizen, and owner of Bayou View Fitness in Gulfport, has been in the United States for 17 and a half years under a permanent resident status.

On Wednesday, he became a U.S. citizen.

“The elation I felt as I was reading the Pledge of Allegiance was unbelievable,” Clarke said. “It took everything I had to not to completely tear up. I was so compassionate about it. It was just an amazing experience.”

Sixty-five people took part in the swearing-in ceremony in New Orleans.

Before that, he had to pass a test, and for months, he prepared by testing his customers on their own knowledge. Wife Michele joked that she had an ulterior motive behind pushing her husband to get his citizenship.

“I love how he thinks, I love who he would vote for and now I get to double my vote by encouraging him to get his citizenship,” Michele said.

Clarke says it was a conversation about the importance of being part of a team with his daughter a couple of years ago that put him on the path.

“Somehow, the conversation shifted to her asking me, ‘Daddy, who are you going to vote for?’ And at the time, I had to say, ‘Honey, I’m a Canadian citizen I can’t vote in a U.S. election.' And she looked right at me and said, ‘But I thought you said it was important.’"

Clarke says he does not support amnesty for those coming into the country illegally.

“The legal way to come here is enormously difficult,” he said. “They do complete background, criminal  checks. You have to have a squeaky clean record, which is the way it should be.”

For the Clarkes, it will be a special Thanksgiving Day.

“For me, what I great way. I’ll be celebrating thanks tomorrow for just this. Being able to move to the most wonderful country in the world.”

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