The New Americans of Washington State
by Deborah Stone
Edmonds Community College and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service held a "Celebration of American Citizenship" last Friday, Sept. 20, at Cedar Park Church in Bothell. More than 100 candidates took the oath of allegiance and received their U.S. citizenship papers during this special ceremony.
The event was the culmination of months of citizenship classes, testing, and interviews. For these people, it was the achievement of a goal: "To become a part of a country many only dreamed about years ago," said Greg Gourley, head of New Americans of Washington.
Gourley teaches citizenship classes at several Seattle-area community colleges. He explained that these classes cost about $325, including government fees, and use a variety of materials, as well as guest speakers, to help students learn about the U.S. Beyond the necessary facts and figures, they also gain knowledge about American culture.
Several local residents received their citizenship status at the ceremony. Those in Woodinville included Martin Leahy from Ireland, Ritu and Vinod Shorey from India, Gary Trauter from Canada, and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Harper from New Zealand. Others were Bothell resident Shirley Drake and Kirkland resident Charlotte Ochoa, both from Canada.
More than 500 people attended the ceremony, which was emceed by Kirby Wilbur of Radio Station KVI. The main program speaker was Bob Richards, internationally-known U.S. Olympic Medalist and seven-time Hall of Fame winner. He spoke about the American spirit, achievement, and the responsibility of being an American today.
Justice Richard Sanders from the State Supreme Court delivered the Pledge of Allegiance, and INS District Director Richard Smith administered the Oath of Citizenship. Ralph Munro, Washington Secretary of State, was also in attendance and assisted the new citizens with voter registration following the ceremony.
"These people have now become voting U.S. citizens. They are hungry to be a part of the political process. It's a responsibility they look forward to," Gourley said. "They will add their presence to the 2,000-plus new citizen voters in Washington State each month."