A total of 85 individuals from 32 countries became United States citizens at a naturalization ceremony held at the University of Findlay on Thursday. The number was “not quite a record for the court, but it’s close,” noted the Honorable Jefferey J. Helmick, U.S. District Judge, Northern District of Ohio.
Helmick, who has presided over several other naturalization ceremonies held at UF, offered his distinctive welcome to the country’s new citizens.
“There’s no place I would rather be today. It is my great, humble honor to be here,” he said, emphasizing “this is the highlight of my duties as a federal judge.” Normally, Helmick quipped, his work within the “conflict resolution business” involves “at least half of the people in my courtroom leaving unhappy.” Thursday’s event was decidedly different, with smiles and cheers emanating from Winebrenner Building’s packed TLB Auditorium after the large group collectively took the oath of citizenship.
Helmick recognized the time and sacrifice that individuals made to become citizens. “In some instances, you may have been waiting for this day for years, or even decades,” he acknowledged. “Now, you’ve crossed the finish line. Sit back and enjoy. Don’t be nervous,” he advised.
Helmick challenged citizens born in the U.S. to take the citizenship test that naturalized individuals must take, which is challenging. “It’s online. It’s worth reminding ourselves of who we are, where we come from, and the brilliance of our system,” he said.
Finally, Helmick appealed to new citizens’ sense of community and service. “In an era that seems to polarized and tribal, I urge you to listen to your fellow citizens and find common ground. Be willing to help others who are struggling. Get involved,” he said.