Check out this great article from the News and Record!
Country Strong: 65 Become US Citizens by Jonnelle Davis, Originally published by News & Record on May 24, 2013
To see wonderful photos from the ceremony, visit: News & Record Photo Gallery
H. SCOTT HOFFMANN/News & Record
GREENSBORO — Tricia Kennedy’s history as a “horrible” student kept her from applying to become a citizen of the country she had lived in since she was 8 years old.
“I was scared of the test, pretty much,” Kennedy said. “Isn’t that silly?”
But on Friday afternoon, the mother of two young girls walked to the front of a courtroom inside the federal courthouse, stated her name and home country of Mexico and proudly declared she was “Mexican by birth, American by the grace of God.”
On her way back to her seat, Kennedy kissed the hand of her 6-year-old daughter, Scarlett, and handed the child the miniature American flag that had been given to her as a symbol of her citizenship.
Kennedy was among 65 people who took the oath of citizenship Friday before a courtroom full of family, friends and public officials.
Judge William L. Osteen Jr. declared it his favorite job responsibility because “everybody gets to go home happy at the end of the day.”
Osteen and others who participated in the ceremony pointed out to the group that while many are fortunate enough to be born American citizens, they were special because they took on the responsibility to become one.
“You chose to do this,” said attorney Mary Peña, who was guest speaker at the naturalization ceremony. “You were determined.”
As they left their seats and filed one by one to the front of the courtroom, they announced to Osteen and onlookers their names and the countries where they were born: Ghana, Mexico, England, Guatemala, Tanzania, Sweden.
Some spoke loudly and clearly.
Others could barely be heard above the crying babies and clicking cameras.
They accepted the certificates that bore their photographs and proof of citizenship with broad smiles and thumbs up to the audience.
It was a simple ceremony with broad meaning.
They can now vote, a privilege Kennedy said spurred her to become a citizen.
One woman told Osteen she looked forward to checking “U.S. citizen” on employment applications.
Another woman showed her allegiance to the country — and North Carolina — by shouting “Go Heels!” as she accepted her certificate.
Pon Philachanh, 35, said he was overwhelmed by becoming a citizen. It’s something the Laos native thought would never happen, although he admitted he procrastinated.
“My wife actually made me,” said Philachanh, who has lived in America most of his life and whose wife became a citizen a few years ago.
Now that he’s a citizen, Philachanh said he’s looking forward to traveling with his wife.
“I just want to see the world,” he said.
Peña, an attorney with Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, reminded them that, as citizens, they had the responsibility to get involved in their communities, make contributions and tell their stories.
“America is a far, far richer place when you tell your story, your family’s story,” she said.
Kennedy made it her 2012 New Year’s resolution to become a citizen.
She applied on Dec. 12, 2012.
“My time was running out,” she said.
As for that test she was scared to take?
“It’s really easy,” she said.
Contact Jonnelle Davis at (336) 373-7080.