Kim Drewry, middle, shows her certificate of citizenship to her daughter, Kristin, and son, Adam.
Roger Relfe poses for pictures taken by family.
U.S. District Judge Laura Grandy presided over a naturalization ceremony Friday in which 75 individuals from 37 countries became U.S. citizens.
Kim Drewry, 40, a native of the Canadian province New Foundland, became a citizen to honor her late husband. Drewry’s husband was a lieutenant colonel who died of a rare bone marrow disease after 21 years of military service.
Drewry, who lives in O’Fallon with her two children, said it was much easier to obtain citizenship than it was to obtain a green card, which she had held for 10 years prior to applying for and gaining citizenship within six months. She said her husband’s overseas assignment to Japan had complicated the process of undergoing a U.S. background check.
The ages of newly minted citizens ranged from 20 to 74 and in addition to Canada, came from the Philippines, Bosnia, Poland, India, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Thailand, South Korea, Zambia and Palestine.
“It’s amazing how fortunate we are to have these people in our country,” Grandy said. “They’re doctors and lawyers. They’ll make money and pay taxes.
“After being sworn in, we’re no more American than they are.”
Naturalization ceremonies are held four times per year, she explained.
“There’s always many professionals in there,” Grandy said.
“As a federal judge, we all take our turns. It’s a heart-warming ceremony,” she said.
Some people wait 20 to 30 years to become citizens.
“Don’t be nervous that they sent a bankruptcy judge to swear you in,” she told the crowd, including newly naturalized citizens and their families.
“I think that the decision you’ve made to become U.S. citizens is really great,” Grandy said.
“The only thing you can’t do is run for president, but the job’s not that great. The hours are lousy, and you have to clean your house, because people are coming through it all the time,” she said.
During her speech, Grandy repeated one of former English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s quotes.
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. Stephen Wiggington, told the crowd he is one of 93 such prosecutors.
“The only title superior to U.S. president is U.S. citizen,” he said. “The power of being a U.S. citizen is becoming a responsible citizen, or you wind up in court with me or with Judge Grandy.”
Each person who comes to America comes wanting prosperity and wanting freedom of religion, he said.
“We welcome all religions, I say to everyone whether Christian, Moslem or Jew.”
Roger Relfe, 61, spoke with a reporter outside the O’Fallon Regency Center where the event was held following the ceremony.
A former chief accountant at an English air force base, Relfe came to the U.S. in 1989 with his wife, a U.S. citizen from birth.
He does television voice-overs and is a mentor for InnovateVMS. The agency matches startup businesses with experienced business leaders who mentor.