Amid cheers and a flurry of waving American flags, 429 women and men from 70 countries became U.S. citizens Friday.
At the naturalization ceremony at Seattle Center, the immigrants and refugees took the Oath of Allegiance and were welcomed as the country’s newest citizens by dignitaries including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
“We cannot wait to see what you are going to do,” Cantwell said, citing the contributions of immigrants-turned-citizens such as Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO.
Inslee encouraged the new citizens to become “full citizens” by registering to vote, writing, criticizing and taking part in American democracy.
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The ceremony came on a day in which people around Puget Sound gathered to celebrate Independence Day, with the largest crowds being drawn to Lake Union, scene of a planned 20-minute fireworks show.
At Seattle Center, the new citizens who took the oath outside Fisher Pavilion are among the 9,000 people taking part in more than 100 naturalization ceremonies nationwide from June 30 to July 5.
U.S. Circuit Court Judge Richard Tallman administered the oath in Seattle. The largest groups were from India (57), Canada (41), the Philippines (38), and China and Ethiopia (each with 23).
Anant Sundaram, 36, and his wife, Rashmi Anant, 33, emigrated from India six years ago. They were at the ceremony Friday with their 3-year-old daughter.
“It’s exciting to begin a new chapter in our lives,” said Sundaram, who works at Microsoft.
Shelema Bekele, 27, from Ethiopia, came to the U.S. six years ago and now studies computer engineering at the University of Washington while working part time at an Amazon.com warehouse.
Bekele said he was excited to be here “for the better economic opportunity.”
Margarita Sakovets, 24, who came from Belarus about 10 years ago, has since graduated from the UW and is now overseeing marketing for an IT company.
“It’s been a very long road,” she said. “I’m very grateful and excited to be in this country. This ceremony is the last step to become a citizen and I cannot wait to become one.”
Marina Elkova, 47, who came from Russia, said that for years her family had marked July 4 because it’s her father’s birthday.
They would also usually say a toast for Americans then because they knew it was American Independence Day.
This year, “on the Fourth of July, I’m taking the oath,” she said. “It gives me goose bumps.”
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @janettu.