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New US Citizens Sworn In At Joyful NYC Ceremony

Jamaican-born Natisha Bowen smiles at her U.S. citizenship ceremony.
Jamaican-born Natisha Bowen smiles at her U.S. citizenship ceremony.

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Hundreds of immigrants officially became American citizens in New York on Friday in a sometimes emotional ceremony of swearing-in and welcoming.

That is the sound of 165 newly minted U.S. citizens representing 48 nations of the world, pledging their allegiance to the American flag and what it represents.

It was just one high point in an hour long public ceremony that included the awarding of citizenship certificates, many congratulatory words, and much applause.

All those assembled put their hand-held American flags to rest and listened closely while New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomed them.

"Whether you are originally from Palermo [Sicily] or Pakistan or Hungary or Haiti, today you are all Americans, and we are delighted that you have chosen the United States as your new nation, and New York City as your new home," he said. "So thank you for doing that. May God bless you all and may God bless the most wonderful country in the world, America!"

Like the nearly seven million others who have became American citizens over the past decade, all of Friday's honorees were required to pass an official citizenship test that demonstrated a basic knowledge of spoken and written English, and a working knowledge of American history and the Constitution.

In his speech, Bob Kerrey, the New School University's president and a former U.S Senator, acknowledged the audience for the hard work it takes to become educated and informed Americans citizens. It's a legal status he said many native born Americans take for granted.

"When something is given to you, unfortunately you don't appreciate it as much as when you have to work for it. And it is my experience that all of you, as soon to be new citizens of this great country, have more to teach us of what it means to be American, [and] more to teach us of what this country is at its best, than perhaps we have to teach you. So, thank you. You are an inspiration to all of us, as Americans who were given this right of citizenship at birth. Good luck to all of you," he said.

US Army private David Aminolte, originally from Ghana, was beaming. Because he has served in the U.S. military for over a year, he was put on a fast track to becoming officially an American. Minutes after taking the oath of allegiance, he spoke to the VOA about Friday's milestone on his road to the American dream.   

"It means a lot in my heart that, you know, that America is giving the opportunity to excel. And being a citizen is actually going to open more doors for me in the Untied States to succeed.  I'm privileged, I'm honored to be a citizen," he said.

Jamaican-born Natisha Bowen was also looking to a bright and interesting future in her adopted homeland.  "Today, I am glad to officially be in the land of opportunity and I am loving it. America is a place of opportunity [and] diverse cultures. Even just walking outside to the store, you will see different cultures  - and I love that. And I look forward to growing my kids to appreciate different cultures," she said.

Brazilian born Rosetta Egan loves the American democratic system.

"What I most like in this country is that people fight for their rights, and the system works well here.  And things change. In many other countries, you have someone in power that is doing bad things and nothing happens. And I am proud to be an American for many things. But the fact that we live in a country that is always trying to do the right thing makes me feel very good," she said.

Indeed, there were as many rational reasons to celebrate the  rights, responsibilities, and rewards of being American as there were people in the room. But when a New School student took the stage to sing God Bless America for these newest Americans, all faces in the room told a profoundly emotional story as well.

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