CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The day we celebrate who we are - the day we said no more to English rule, we are not subjects of any king or anyone else - we are simply Americans.
Most of us can take the title of being “American” for granted. It was our birth rite. But for many “yearning to breath free,” as it says at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, that title of American starts with a dream of a better life.
And it’s something to be earned.
On the Fourth of July this year, 27 people saw their dream realized in Charlotte, becoming citizens during a ceremony at the Charlotte Museum of History.
“It’s a dream come true to me," said Vanessa Amabo after the ceremony. "I get to enjoy all the privileges of being an American citizen.”
It’s a years-long process to get to this point. Those who want to be citizens, among other things, have to first be a permanent resident, and have a green card for at least 5 years.
Avri Beeri met those qualifications as well.
“I’ve been in the U.S. almost 34 years," Beeri said. "I feel like part of the family.”
You have to be able to read, write and speak basic English. And you have to have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government.
That part seemed to have come easy for Gastuvo Moreno.
“I always had the love for American. I always have the love for history,” Moreno said. “It’s hard to describe... it’s just a very, very special and emotional moment.”
There are tests on these things with questions like “What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?” (the answer is The Bill of Rights), “What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?” (checks and balances as well as separation of powers) and "What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens? (serve on a jury and vote in a federal election).
Last year, 757,000 people completed the process and became American citizens. Over the last decade, 7.4 million have gone through the process. The 27 new citizens welcomed in Charlotte on Independence Day were among 7,000 in a 5-day span.
Congratulations to all of them. While they were there, they were able to register to vote immediately after their naturalization - exercising one of their first rights as an American citizen.