MISSOULA – It was a moment some never thought would happen but years of working towards the American dream paid off for some brand new US citizens on Wednesday.
They pledged their loyalty to their new country at a Naturalization Ceremony held in the Dennison Theater at the University of Montana.
The event was the final destination of the long process that culminated in 41 people becoming United States citizens — and November 14, 2018, is a date most will never forget.
“Today is really special because it’s something I’ve been looking forward to, it’s really special for my family to make a commitment,” said Claire Francoeur.
“Last night, I didn’t sleep good just thinking about today. I want to do good things for this country,” added Talia Sheribuken.
Wednesday’s Naturalization Ceremony included a number of speakers including UM President Seth Bodnar and Provost Jon Harbor. The University of Montana Brass Quintet and Chamber Choir was also on hand to welcome the new citizens.
One by one, they crossed the stage, officially becoming U.S. citizens — 41 individuals from around the world each having a different reason to call America their home.”
“I just felt it was time, I lived here long enough and my wife was always asking me, when are you going to vote. You’re a man without a country.”
Francoeur from Canada waited 20 years for this day.
“Over the last couple of the years, watching what’s going on and this recent push to go out and vote. I watched a speech by Joe Biden where it really resonated with me,” Francoeur said.
“Because he made it a point to say if you want to make a difference in the world, you can’t just watch from the sidelines, you have to go up there and do something, so I thought ‘well, okay.’ And I went online and applied and here I am!”
It took 36 years of living in the United States for Italian born Joseph Velli to finally take that step but he says he’s felt American in his heart for a long time.
“I cry every time they play the National Anthem and to me, I’m more of an American than some Americans because I love this country,” Velli said.
And with 41 hands over hearts, pledging the Naturalization Oath, the United States of America truly became their own.
Federal judge Dana Christensen presided over Wednesday’s ceremony.
Reporting by Russ Thomas for MTN News