Newest citizens

Anjana Prasad (from left) hugs his wife Shailendra and his son Sridhar after all three had taken the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, at a Naturalization Ceremony held at the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site on Friday. The Prasad's were amo

MOUNT PLEASANT -- They came from Russia, Bulgaria, India and Vietnam. Burma, Cuba and Egypt were represented. So were Nigeria, Mexico and Brazil.

But on Friday, the group from all over the world had one thing in common. Their home officially became the United States.

As Burl Ives sang "This Land Is Your Land," 117 people from 46 countries received their citizenship certificates. "I welcome you to this, the greatest country in the world," U.S. District Judge David Norton said.

After the ceremony, they would scatter across South Carolina. Physician, architect, teacher and retail sales were among the occupations. They had been in this country from five years to more than 30 years and ranged in age from their 20s to their 60s.

"It's very emotional both ways. I'm losing a great country and beginning in another great one," said Anjana Prasad, 52, of Tega Cay, who took the Oath of Allegiance with his wife and son.

He grew up the son of a doctor in eastern India in the city of Ranchi. He has been in this country for 18 years and is an Internet technology executive with Muzak.

"At this point I feel more American than Indian. I don't think the same way. It feels more like home here," Prasad said.

The philosophy of the Constitution is phenomenal, he said.

"Everywhere it talks about human rights, being free. How many other constitutions talk about that, and if they do, how many others follow it?" Prasad said.

His wife, Shailendra Prasad, 48, agreed. "I love this country, the system," she said.

Their son, Sridhar Prasad, 26, has lived in the U.S. since he was 8. He likes the diversity here, the melting pot of races, religions and countries that he said is lacking in most countries. He is a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte studying math and actuarial science.

"It's a momentous occasion," he said.

The Prasad family planned to enjoy the beach and good food in the Lowcountry before returning to their home.

Trudy Stanek of Charleston became a citizen after 35 years in the United States. Her other choice was to renew her green card. She was fulfilling a wish of her husband, who died seven weeks ago.

"He told me to just go ahead and do it. He wanted that. So that was special. Today, I thought of him," she said.

Stanek, 64 and originally from Germany, said one of the reasons she hadn't applied for citizenship before is because the test is so difficult. However, because she is older she only had to answer six questions, which included the number of Supreme Court justices and the names of the president and vice president. She looked forward to being able to vote.

The naturalization ceremony was at the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. It was held on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day and included the Oath of Allegiance, the Pledge of Allegiance and the presentation of citizenship certificates.

Others speaking during the event included Phil McNamara, executive secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"Congratulations to our newest American citizens," McNamara said. He urged them to be active participants in democracy.

More than 9,000 new citizens took the Oath of Allegiance on Friday during 22 events across the country.

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