The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee held a naturalization ceremony at the Hermitage on Thursday morning in front of the historic mansion that was once home to Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States.
U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr. presided over the ceremony and administered the oath of allegiance to 40 people who became U.S. citizens Thursday.
Looking on were dignitaries and civic leaders from across Tennessee who gathered to support people from Iraq, the United Kingdom, Guatemala and many other countries in their pursuit of freedom and belonging in the U.S.
Vivi Meshreky, who lives in Lebanon, has lived in the U.S. for six years with her husband, Frien, and the Egyptian native gained her citizenship, something she’s studied to achieve.
“I’m very happy to become an American citizen today,” said Meshreky.
Another new citizen was Gaia Melkumova who is originally from Russia and has lived in the U.S. for 22 years.
“I’ve always wanted to participate fully in the political process, so I’m very excited to be able to vote. That was my main motivation for becoming a U.S. citizen,” Melkumova said.
“America has always been home. I say always because it seems like it’s been a long time. It has felt like home for a long time, but [Thursday] morning especially with this being held at such a special place gives my new status an added significance, and I feel pride and joy, and I feel different in the sense that now I am truly one of the Americans, fully, 100 percent.”
Crenshaw spoke to the crowd of new U.S. citizens to remind them of the significance of the responsibilities of every citizen in free society and encouraged them be engaged in both social and civic opportunities to help shape the nation they now represent.
“Americans, unlike many other people, are not Americans simply because of an accident or geography or centuries of tradition. Instead, we are Americans based on a citizenship of shared ideas and ideals brought from many different countries, races and cultures,” Crenshaw said.
“I’m not an American simply because my parents were. You’re not Americans merely because you went through this. Although these things are certainly necessary for us to become citizens, we are Americans because we also share certain fundamental beliefs.
“We’re bound by a unique set of principles set forth in the documents that establish and continue to define this great nation. The oath of allegiance that you just took is really a promise to uphold these beliefs.
“We are here today at the Hermitage, the home of former President Andrew Jackson, and his words give us guidance today. He said, ‘Americans are not a perfect people, but we are called to a perfect mission.’”