Constitution Day was celebrated in a special way in Tulsa when 67 people from other nations became U.S. citizens last week.
The naturalization ceremony in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Oklahoma was the second within two days. Earlier, 49 people became new citizens.
Chief U.S. District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell noted the anniversary as he welcomed the candidates and their families to the fourth-floor courtroom.
“This is a big day for all of us,” he said, “particularly for those about to become citizens, their families and friends. Each of us in this court consider it to be a special privilege to be in this court, to be part of this occasion.”
“This is a happy day,” Brenda Schwartz, citizenship and immigration services representative, told the 67 people about to become U.S. citizens prior to the start of the ceremony.
Somber faces among the candidates indicated they were apprehensive about the upcoming proceedings.
Schwartz told the soon-to-be citizens that while she had been strict in the assembly room, that everyone could relax “and smile” because this was their day. She reminded the candidates that they had to take the oath saying “So Help Me God” after it had been read by Frizzell and Congressman Jim Bridenstine.
She encouraged the candidates to smile and wave to their family members when they stood as their country of origin was called.
Following the ceremony the new citizens were urged to register to vote because the time was short and the cutoff date was Oct. 14 to vote in the Nov. 8 election.
Meanwhile, Ruby Shadley sang “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner” during the ceremony. The 2015 Union High School graduate is attending The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City and recently played the lead role of Laurie in Theatre Tulsa’s production of “Oklahoma.”
Booker Gillespie, who has sung at previous naturalization ceremonies, heard Shadley sing and encouraged her to be part of the special ceremony.
Bridenstine, sitting next to Frizzell, told how he became aware of the freedoms that U.S. citizens experience in 2001 as a young U.S. Navy officer when he was assigned to temporary duty in South Korea.
He visited the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) at Panmunjong dividing North Korea and South Korea saw what appeared to be a prosperous city near the border.
But it was through a Japanese soldier that Bridenstine learned that it was a propaganda city; there were no windows or doors on the buildings. It was an attempt to entice South Koreans and others to come to the North and “the land of opportunity.”
This was at a time when 5 percent of the population was starving, he said. They also had a billboard that proclaimed “Our generals are better than yours.”
“I don’t fight for generals,” Bridenstine said. “I fight to support the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the liberty to voice my opinion through the ballot box.”
Frizzell noted the inscription on the U.S. dollar bill reads E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one — and that it applies to everyone. All are equally protected under the law.
“My sixth great-grandfather fled Scotland to escape Cromwell and found a land where he could be free and worship as he wanted,” he said.
Lisa Parsons, from Canada, said she has lived in the U.S. for 11 years and this country “feels like home.” She attended the University of Tulsa College of Law and works for the Paladin Land Group.
Robert Vandommelen, from Holland, has been in the U.S. since 1970. Friends encouraged him to apply for citizenship, and Vandommelen, now retired, had worked as a chef in the Old Georgia Room at Hotel Phillips in Bartlesville.
Dung Thi Mi Nguyen, from Vietnam, and her husband, Tan, own Model Nails in Tulsa. Owning a business is a freedom that she has wanted.
“I love this country and want to be here the rest of my life,” she said.
Large numbers of people from Burma and Mexico were among the new citizens.