Bamby Petty, originally from Taiwan and now a resident of New Albany, said it gave her a new sense of allegiance to the place she already considers home.
“It is different when you make the commitment,” she said. “Now I’ve sworn to defend and love and protect this country — and that is a very different thing than just living here as a resident.”
She entered the U.S. as a student, attending college in Tennessee and becoming a nurse. She has lived in the U.S. for 17 years.
“This is more home than anywhere else, so I just thought I would make the official commitment,” said Petty.
United States District Court convened in the historic coliseum at 11 a.m. to naturalize prospective citizens from throughout the northern federal court district. A giant American flag hung at the back of the stage where federal judges and other dignitaries sat as the candidates for citizenship recited the naturalization oath in unison. Cries of joy erupted at the conclusion of the oath as Court Clerk David Crews congratulated them on their new status.
The candidates hailed from a total of 28 countries. Each one, as his or her name was announced from the podium, took a microphone in hand and announced the country of origin. Mexico had the greatest representation with more than two dozen. Others were India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Cuba, England, Guatemala, Russia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, Chile, China, El Salvador, Jordan, Jamaica, France, Vietman, Peru, Nepal, Nigeria, Scotland, Yemen, Bulgaria and a few others.
“You are now as much a U.S. citizen as anyone in this auditorium,” Senior Judge Neal Biggers told the new citizens.
Corinth leaders were excited to have the opportunity to host the ceremony.
“We have attempted in the lat several years to take these ceremonies to different venues across the Northern District,” said Chief Judge Sharion Aycock. “We think it’s important from a historical standpoint. We think it’s important from a civics standpoint that students and citizens get an opportunity to witness this ceremony.”
Mayor Tommy Irwin was among those who welcomed the group.
“I hope those of us who were fortunate enough to be born in this country will listen to this oath and renew our own allegiance and promise to continue to help make the United States of America a great country of boundless opportunity and wonderful people,” he said.
Corinth native John Palmer, who served as ambassador to Portugal from 2001 to 2004, told the new citizens they have the same, if not better, opportunities as those who came before them.
“We are excited you are becoming a part of us,” he said.
Corinth’s John Rhodes, brigadier general with the Mississippi National Guard, led the Pledge of Allegiance following the oath, and the Corinth High School Mixed Ensemble performed The National Anthem. The Corinth High School Band Ensemble performed patriotic music before and after the event.
A number of students from local schools observed the ceremony, and the new citizens received souvenirs presented by five chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution — La Salle, Chickasaw Nation, Chief Tishomingo, Mary Stuart and Natchez Trace.
Many praised the ceremonial presentation of the event.
Carol Puckett, who attended with Palmer, said she has previously seen naturalization proceedings in the courtroom.
“I’ve never seen anything like what they’ve gone to up here,” she said.