By Kristin M. Hall, Associated Press
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Hundreds of people became naturalized U.S. citizens during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Middle Tennessee State University on the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.
About 300 men and women who have immigrated to Tennessee from all over the world gathered to take the naturalization oath on Constitution Day, 225 years after the ratification of the rules that dictate the powers of the federal government.
Normally these ceremonies are held in the federal courthouse in downtown Nashville, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe B. Brown held the court session in the large university gymnasium in front of family and friends of the newest U.S. citizens.
Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade spoke about the history of the Constitution and its amendments.
“Despite serious disagreements, our founders were able to join hands, compromise on their ideals and in order to form a more perfect union and secure the blessings of liberty, agree upon our Constitution and our Bill of Rights,” he said. “All of which stand true today, as we celebrate not only the Constitution, but the citizens entitled to its protections.”
As friends and family members waited for the ceremony to start, volunteers took turns reading from the U.S. Constitution. One of those volunteers was 8-year-old Beshoy Farag, who carefully and confidently read a portion from the historical document over the loudspeaker in the gymnasium.
His father, Saef Farag, 35, of Egypt, was among those 300 new U.S. citizens taking the oath. Farag, who moved to the country from Egypt, said he was eager to take advantage of the rights he can now enjoy as a citizen, such as getting his U.S. passport and voting in the upcoming presidential election.
“I like the Constitution and the law and I was happy to become a citizen on this date,” he said after the ceremony.
Farag said by becoming a U.S. citizen, he’s also improving the opportunities for his family.
“I think I can guarantee a good education for my children,” he said.
Tammy Li, a 19-year-old freshman studying nutrition and food science at MTSU, moved from Fujian, China, to the United States in 2007. She was able to get scholarships to cover the costs of her first year in college and she wants to stay in the Middle Tennessee area after graduating.
“That’s why I really wanted to be U.S. citizen. I like it here and it is just like my home,” she said.
She said she’s felt like an American for a long time, but now it’s finally official.
“Right now, I feel like my future is bright,” she said.