ITHACA, N.Y. — Thirty-three people were welcomed as U.S. citizens Wednesday in a naturalization ceremony at the Tompkins County Courthouse.

The ceremony involved 33 petitioners (people seeking citizenship), representing 20 different nations, taking the Oath of Allegiance for U.S. citizenship.

“We all have our own histories … be proud of your culture; it defines you,” District Attorney Matthew Van Houten said at the beginning of the ceremony. “The diversity you bring defines what it means to truly be American.”

Judge Joseph Cassidy presided over the ceremony. The courtroom was packed with friends and families of the individuals being naturalized.

For many, this was the end of a long journey that spanned years. For others, it was simply a matter of finally deciding to pursue citizenship after leaving their nation of origin behind years ago.

One such person, Jack Wang, originally came from Canada. He first came to the U.S. as a graduate student and has stayed in the country since then.

“I’ve lived in the United States longer than I’ve lived in Canada. I’ve married an American, my kids are American citizens, so it made sense to finally be American like the rest of my family,” he said.

But it was more than that. “As someone who’s lived here for a long time, I wanted to participate in the democratic process,” he continued. The feeling of wanting to be a part of something bigger, to be a part of this country’s political process seemed to be a common thread among those who were naturalized Wednesday.

“I’ve spent probably 50 percent of my life here … I’d like to be able to vote,” William Phillips, from the UK said. “My wife and kids have been voting, but now I can actually participate myself.”

Featured image courtesy of Rachel Graham.