Damilola Ibrahim, 4, sits with her father, Olufemi Sunday Ibrahim, during his U.S. naturalization ceremony Wednesday at Wildwood Preserve Metropark’s Manor House.
The most anticipated moment of their lives had arrived: The nearly two dozen immigrants were about to take the oath of citizenship that would at last officially make them U.S. citizens.
But U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Ann Whipple, who was presiding over the naturalization ceremony, had a few more words of wisdom to share.
PHOTO GALLERY: August 2013 Naturalization Ceremony
She noted how the new citizens-to-be had to pass several tests, including a civics test, before they could be considered for citizenship. She praised them for their knowledge of American history and government — things many native born Americans are woefully ignorant about, she said.
“Many citizens take their rights for granted,” Judge Whipple said during Wednesday’s eremony at Wildwood Preserve Metropark’s Manor House.
“I think it’s because some people haven’t had to work as hard as our new citizens for their rights and liberties.”
To emphasize her point, Judge Whipple asked the audience how many of them knew there was a local election on Tuesday. Less than one dozen people out of more than 120 people raised their hands.
Judge Whipple also noted that during the most recent presidential election, two-thirds of all registered voters in Ohio voted. But in most general elections, the percentage of people who vote is in the teens, or low 20th percentile. She encouraged the new citizens to exercise their new rights.
New citizen Joel Guzman-Martinez of Mexico said the right to vote is the freedom he most cherishes as a new American.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Ann Whipple, left, presides over the naturalization ceremony for nearly two dozen people Wednesday in the Manor House.
“I believe in Democracy,” the 48-year-old said. “It affects my rights as a person. My wife and I believe in freedom of speech, and we want to be able to better advocate for kids.”
Each applicant for citizenship must pass a civics test about U.S. government and history, said Mr. Guzman-Martinez, who lives in Fremont. During the test, an immigration officer will ask up to 10 of any 100 questions, and the applicant must answer six correctly to pass. They are also tested on their ability to talk and write in English.
Mr. Guzman-Martinez said he found the test easy, but then again, he was “hungry” to learn as much as possible about his new country. His wife, Melanie Guzman-Martinez, a native born American, admitted some of the questions stumped her.
Ajarat Ojundimu, formerly of Nigeria and now of Toledo, said she studied extensively and found the test easy.
“I’m very pleased today,” Ms. Ojundimu said. “Thanks to God for the opportunity to be here and to become a citizen.”
New citizen Arati Bipin Patel of India said she worked hard to become a citizen and vowed never to take that citizenship for granted. She thought the civics test was difficult.
“Yes, it was hard for someone of my age,” the 43-year-old Lima, Ohio, resident said. “I had to ask my children for help.”
Nothing could dampen her spirits.
“This is like the mightiest feeling in the world in my life,” Mrs. Patel said. “I feel proud to be an American.”
Those naturalized and their countries of origin are:
Bangladesh: Sm Ziaur Rahman
Canada: Azra Yasmin Idris
Ethiopia: Negatwa Meshesha Metaferia
India: Arati Bipin Patel, Bipin Dayaram Patel, Kuldip Singh, Servjeet Takhar
Jamaica: Keria Tamara Edwards
Laos: Vongdeaune Khamphoumy
Mexico: Joel Guzman-Martinez, Adolfo Ramos Velasco
Nigeria: Olufemi Sunday Ibrahim, Ajarat Ogundimu
People’s Republic of China: Lixiao Chen
Philippines: Carolyn Pamela San Juan
South Korea: Jangyoun Justin Hwang
Taiwan: Yi Fan Han
United Kingdom: Peter James Lawford, David John Sheath
Venezuela: Victor Danilo Sierra Sanabria, Maria Luisa Muro-Small
Vietnam: Thu Ngu Hoang Vo
Contact Federico Martinez at: