“God bless America, my home, sweet home,” was bellowed out proudly by close to 50 people representing more than 20 counties who became naturalized United States citizens during ceremonies in the U.S. District Court in Rome on Thursday.
India led the parade of nations represented by former citizens who are now Americans with seven, followed by South Korea with five and Vietnam with four. Taiwan and Colombia each lost three citizens during Thursday’s ceremony.
Olesya Sypchenko, a native of Russia who has lived in the U.S. for six years, was one of 29 women who took their citizenship oaths in front of U.S. District Court Judge Harold L. Murphy.
“It was hard, very hard,” she said of the decision to renounce her Russian citizenship. “But I want to be helpful for this nation.”
Sypchenko said learning the language and absorbing the American culture and history have all been very difficult. On the other hand, Selva Ferrero, a native of Argentina, has been in the country for 42 years.
“I really felt like I was an American,” Ferrero said. “I was raised American with baseball, football and hot dogs.”
Ferrero, who lives in Alpharetta, is a flight attendant with United Airlines. She said she travels the world but is so happy to finally, officially, call herself an American.
Kelvin Chen Chih Peng is a graduate student at Georgia Tech. He was born in Taiwan but has lived in New Zealand for most of his life. Peng said it was not such a big deal to him to give up his Taiwanese citizenship. Why the decision to become a U.S. citizen?
“Because this is the greatest country in the world,” Peng said.
Ed Hine Jr., a Rome attorney, served as the keynote speaker for the event.
“What a proud day this is, not only for each of you all, but every citizen here whom you have joined,” he said. “The past is not nearly as important as the present. You are now United States citizens, and we welcome you and are glad that you are here.”
Hine reminded the newly naturalized citizens of the importance of the Bill of Rights. He recited each of the initial 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. He said each is critically important to their new rights as citizens.
“We welcome you to this country,” Murphy said. “We all should remember that we are either immigrants or descended from immigrants and we’re privileged to have the freedoms of the Constitution of the United States. It’s not easy but it’s a wonderful life and a wonderful country.”