The Steamship Ticonderoga at the Shelburne Museum was converted into a courtroom Monday afternoon. It was to administer the oath of allegiance to the newest citizens of the United States.
The ceremony is just one of 158 that will take place across the country this week in recognition of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. But there is nothing ordinary about it, even to those who have seen it before. "It's the best job that there is. Really it is -- the epitome of what U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services does. This is what we strive for all the time, for people to become U.S. citizens, so it makes me very proud to be part of it," said Jean Tharpe, the USCIS St. Albans Field Office Director.
To qualify these prospective citizens had to lawfully live in the United States for five years, three if they are married to a U.S. citizen. Then they had to apply and take a 100 question test on everything from civics to the English language.
"No, it's not hard -- I go to school. If he, anytime he need me, I am here for America," said Daba Diobe, originally from West Africa.
Each person has their own story, their own reasons for wanting to become Americans. A point not lost on Judge William Sessions, who presided over the ceremony. "Each of you has come to this proceeding by some path which has taken you from your place of birth or prior citizenship to this courtroom this afternoon," Sessions said.
Twenty-four people who started their lives in 21 different countries.
"I can go outside there with people and be proud that I am an American citizen and stand up for America. But if I am not a citizen, it is impossible for me to stand up for America," said Peter Darand Deng, originally from the southern Sudan.
And some in Monday's ceremony, like Jose Aulmoran, originally from El Salvador, said people who are born in this country sometimes take their freedoms for granted. "I think some of the people do not know how great this country is and I sometimes, I have seen people take advantage and don't know how we have to work so hard to show citizens and work hard to be part of it," he said.
When it was time to take the oath of allegiance, all stood and repeated after Judge Sessions.
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