WASHINGTON - Taking the oath of allegiance at a naturalization ceremony is a very special day for someone becoming an American citizen -- the culmination of a very long process. But it was even more special for a group of new citizens who took the oath Friday. They swore allegiance to their new country on its Independence Day -- at the home of one of its Founding Fathers.
All across the United States, July 4 is a day of celebration -- when Americans mark the day they declared Independence from Britain in 1776.
Americans visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon home in Virginia to pay tribute to the country’s first president and one of its Founding Fathers.
This set of 102 people, though, some with their friends and family members, have come here for a very special reason. They are being sworn in as the newest citizens of the United States.
For some of them, the journey from their home countries to this ceremony has been very long -- both in terms of geographical distance and the time it took to reach this goal.
Minh Towner left Vietnam almost 40 years ago on her way to the United States.
"I left Vietnam in 1975. I was one of the refugee boat people," said Towner. "I did not have my GPS so I went quite a long way before I wished to America. I went to Taiwan and then lived in France and then live in Australia and now I come here. "
She finally arrived here eight years ago.
There are a number of reasons why these people left their home countries to come to the U.S.
Rana Navin left Afghanistan in search of safety for her children. Today she said she has it.
"I know my kids and my husband, we are like safe, and my whole family here like safe because in Afghanistan never you know what happens outside, and here everything is fine," said Navin.
These people come from 45 different countries, but in just a few moments they all will be Americans.
For some of these newest citizens, emotions run high.
"Oh, no words can express my feeling. I was so excited. I’ve been waiting for this moment since I came here like 10 years back," said one new American citizen.
Maha Ahmed came from Sudan. She told VOA that being an American makes her "feel like a human being."
"You have equal rights. There is no discrimination, no racists. You get your chances, you can explore -- explore the world, get your education. You can do whatever you want to do - this is a free country," she said.
Towner said she used to listen to the American National Anthem on TV as a child in Vietnam without understating a word of it. But today, she said that she and all the other new citizens have pledged to live up the spirit of the words.