Eighty-five-year-old Ahmed Chafic Mohamad Hijazi, leaning on his walker and guided by his pregnant daughter-in-law, slowly but proudly accepted flowers and an award certificate welcoming him as an American citizen Thursday.
"I respect the Constitution, I love America, and I love the respect of all religions," said Mr. Hijazi, who moved from Lebanon 15 years ago and applied for citizenship just this year.
"It was very quick for him," said daughter-in-law Rania Bazzi-Hijazi. "He memorized all of the questions for the test and was very excited to take it and then also to learn he had passed."
Mr. Hijazi was among 26 people sworn in simultaneously as U.S. citizens in a ceremony at McCord Junior High School in Sylvania.
The ceremony, presided over by U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary, departed from the usual courtroom swearing-in and included performances from the school's cheerleaders, chorus, and band.
At a coffee-and-bagels gathering before the ceremony, many beamed at the thought of soon becoming some of America's newest citizens.
They later applauded the welcome from the junior high school's 640 students, all of whom witnessed the swearing-in ceremony.
Judge Zouhary told the new citizens of his own parents' emigration to America.
"My parents were naturalized citizens, like you, making me a first-generation American," he said. "They came to America at different times, but both had the same first sight of America: New York City harbor and the Statue of Liberty."
He encouraged the newly sworn-in Americans to embrace their new country.
"Do as my parents did [and] embrace the democratic ideals of America, while at the same time sharing your customs and culture," Judge Zouhary said.
"America's strength comes from the diversity of our citizens … your accents are beautiful notes to the founding American chorus."
Also sworn in yesterday was Mike Sigov, a reporter and columnist for The Blade, who moved to Toledo from Russia in 1993.
Before moving to America, Mr. Sigov worked in Moscow as a reporter and editor for the Russian Information Agency Novosti, officially a public news agency.
Mr. Sigov said it was a propaganda tool of the Communist Party Central Committee, of which President Mikhail Gorbachev was the general secretary.
Mr. Sigov took a job at The Blade as a reporter in 1994 and received a master of business administration degree from the University of Toledo in 1996.
Since 1998, he also has written a column for The Blade about U.S.-Russian relations.
Mr. Sigov said he is most happy about finally being able to vote in American elections and hopes to soon bring his Russian fiancee to Toledo.
Naturalization was a family affair yesterday for Jason and Lovelace Ambucay, who brought their son and daughter to see them become U.S. citizens.
The Sylvania couple moved in 2003 from the Philippines, where they studied to become nurses. Now they both are employed as nurses in the Toledo area and, like Mr. Sigov, are looking forward to voting here for the first time.
"Things here are very different than in the Philippines but we love it here very much," Mr. Ambucay said.
The countries of origin and the new citizens' names are:
Burkina Faso - Souleymane Salambaore
Canada - Kieron Eugene Dillon, William James Fordyce, Martin Ross Pettet, Diane Marie Virani, Nazimuddin Abdul Sultan Virani, and Lydia Guimary Zuck.
El Salvador - Milagro Del Carmen Martinez
Ghana - Siegfried Kommey Ogbarmey Tetteh
India - Manjula Harshad Lalji
Iran - Farzin Fotouhi
Kenya - John Macharia Waweru
Jordan - Rania Ahmad Kayed Abdelrahman, Tom Loai, Ahlam Ahmad Soudah
Philippines - Jason Satur Ambucay, Lovelace Arnobit Ambucay, Dennis Reyes Aquino, Elizabeth Alcover Stevens
Lebanon - Ahmed Chafic Mohamad Hijazi, Bassel Youssef Ismail, Fatima Abdoumi Smidi
Liberia - Genevieve Wede Sherif
Mexico - Alberto Delgado Gonzalez
Russia - Mike Sigov
Trinidad and Tobago - Jason Anton Thomas