It was a celebration of all that’s American by the newest Americans. More than 500 Washington residents were sworn in as new U.S. citizens during the annual Independence Day Naturalization Ceremony at the Seattle Center.
“I cannot tell you how I feel; I’m just speechless,” said Army Specialist Hye Shin, a new U.S. citizen from South Korea. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Overall, nearly 70 countries were represented at Tuesday's ceremony from Canada to Syria.
The Philippines had the most new U.S. citizens during Tuesday’s ceremony with 40 individuals, followed by India at 38, Vietnam at 32, Mexico at 30 and Canada at 25.
Federal Judge Richard Tallman presided over the naturalization ceremony; speakers included Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, and Governor Jay Inslee.
“I can tell you not only is America’s door open, but the Washington door is open,” said Governor Inslee.
While the current political divide was referenced, it wasn't a focus for the nation's newest members reaching a milestone Tuesday.
“I've found that it's united more people, more so than anything,” said Zaina Seede a new U.S. citizen from Canada.
“You see the flag now, it means so much more to you. You feel home,” Seede said reflecting of her feelings this Fourth of July.
A symbol of the freedom and opportunity the new citizens say they hope to find, as they blend their home country's culture with their new one.
“Love everyone,” said Lejani Smalls, originally from the Phillipines. “Regardless of what the conditions are, regardless of their nationality, their color, their gender, what it is that they want to practice; love everybody.”
The Seattle naturalization ceremony was one of several occurring across the country this Independence Day.