PLAINS, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Former President Jimmy Carter gave the keynote address Thursday at the first naturalization ceremony in Plains, Georgia ever at his old high school (now the Jimmy Carter Historic Center).
""There's no doubt that one of the best things that has happened to my country is the constant infusion, the constant coming to my nation of new citizens like you," he told the 34 excited immigrants, all about to become US citizens.
These new citizens know the road to naturalization is long. "I've been here since 2002, so pretty much since then," says Lucien Chin of Jamaica.
"I could cry, but I'm keeping my composure," said Fathma Carlisle of Warner Robins, but she found it difficult to stop her tears of joy once the ceremony began. Married to a retired military man, she came to the United States from Kenya...and after today, knows her journey was worth it.
"It is worth the trouble," she says, "It is worth the upheavals. It's an up and down situation, but never lose hope."
The new citizens from all over the state weren't told President Carter would be there to welcome them...but it was a welcome surprise. With their American flags in hand, and their right hands raised, all 34 candidates from 18 different countries took their oath. For Chin, it was an emotional day. He came here in 2002, and his mother just recently got her citizenship.
"I got a little teary-eyed then because people in America don't understand the struggles that other people from other countries go through," he told 41NBC.
"When you talk to our new citizens and you hear about their journey to come here to the greatest nation, and to live and develop their own American dream," says Denise Frazier, Director of USCIS Atlanta District. When that dream comes true, even a former President can't resist but to stop by.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Back in 1977, then-President Carter established a coalition to reduce the number of illegal immigrants coming to the United States, as a way to make the process simpler for those trying to do it the right way.