By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The United States Courthouse overflowed with smiles on Friday.
“It’s one of the few occasions in federal court when everyone goes away happy,” said David Crews, clerk of court for United States District Court, Northern District of Mississippi.
He was tasked with leading 47 people from 20 different countries in the naturalization Oath of Allegiance. Before the ceremony, Crews told the citizens-in-waiting not to worry if they had trouble pronouncing all of the words.
“I have trouble with some of them, too,” he said. “Like ‘potentate.’”
That was the first of several laugh-out-loud moments during the 30-minute ceremony.
Grace Glenn, 41, of Marietta was born in the Philippines. She met and married a man from Mississippi, and came to the U.S. in 2007.
“I could not sleep last night. I was just so restless because I wanted to get it done,” Glenn said. “I’m so excited.”
The ceremony began with the singing of the National Anthem, which featured a group of singers that Chief Judge Michael Mills called “The Court Quartet.”
Next came an official welcome from Dr. Dan Jones, chancellor of the University of Mississippi. Jones had worked in South Korea, and learned how difficult it was to adapt to a new language and culture. He told about learning to tell his boss, “Hello, honored leader,” in Korean.
“What I actually said to him was, ‘Hello, honored fish,’” he said.
Jones mentioned his travels to China, Russia and Iran, where he found barriers meant to keep people separated. By contrast, the Statue of Liberty seemed to be saying, “Welcome, welcome, welcome,” when he flew over New York Harbor.
“The strength of this country has been the diversity of people who come to this place,” Jones said.
After their names were called, the 47 candidates moved forward, but before Crews could lead them in the oath, Mills addressed their families.
“Everybody with a camera come on back,” he said, motioning family and friends toward the bench. “This is the only time we allow you to bring cameras into a federal courtroom.”
Crews led the new Americans in the oath, then everyone in the courtroom faced the flag to give the Pledge of Allegiance.
There were smiles and applause, as well as a few tears.
“I got a little ‘verklempt,’ as my mother said. I’m a little choked up,” said 19-year-old Leerin Campbell.
Her father, Odram Campbell, was born in Northern Ireland, and spent the past 20 years in the U.S.
“This is something he really wanted to do,” Leerin Campbell said.
Her mother said the family had more celebrating to do after the ceremony.
“We have some champagne in the refrigerator,” Julie Campbell said.