Sixty-four people from 31 countries became new citizens of the United States during a ceremony Monday at the Missouri National Guard Headquarters in Jefferson City.
Those who took their oaths of allegiance came from countries including Guatemala, South Korea, Philippines, Kenya and Iraq.
"You're one of us now," U.S. District Judge Nannette Laughrey said. "It's important for all of us to remember that it was through your hard work that it made it possible for you to accomplish this goal."
Laughrey has sometimes served as a tutor for people who are studying for their citizenship. She said these new citizens probably know more about this country's institutions than many native-born citizens.
"How many native-born citizens could tell what the Federalist Papers were and who wrote them or who was the president during World War I?" Laughrey said. "Those are the kinds of the questions you had to answer, and it's a testimony to your tenacity that you have been able to go through the rigorous screening process."
Laughery noted Americans have historically been fascinated with immigration, researching their ancestors by spending money for things like blood tests to find out where they came from.
Laughery's grandparents came to America in 1898 from Ireland and eventually settled in South Dakota, where they raised 10 children.
"We are both grateful for the foresight of our ancestors in coming to this country and awed by their courage," Laughery said.
Immigrants come for different reasons, Laughery said, but they share a common bond made up of several characteristics.
"It takes strength, tenacity, ingenuity, a sense of adventure, a little luck and, most of all, hope for the future," she said. "We owe it to immigrants like you for the country we are today."
Laughery told the group she hopes they preserve the diversity they are bringing to this country "because it strengthens the fabric of American life."
She also told the new citizens to embrace their new responsibilities as citizens of the United States.
"While there are profound differences among the people in the United States, we are one indissoluble nation, and we all have an obligation to live together peacefully and prosperously," Laughery said. "Remember, men and women have died to preserve our freedom, which is now your freedom. We owe it to them, at a minimum, to obey the laws of this country, to vote and to take responsibility for our government's future."
Among those becoming new citizens was Alice Waters. Born in the United Kingdom, Waters has been living in the United States for 12 years and now resides in Joplin.
"I've lived here this long — I love this country — so I figured it was time to stay," Waters said.
Waters said she became involved with helping in the recovery after a massive tornado hit Joplin in 2011. That made her want to stay even more. Currently she's working for the Joplin Humane Society.
"There's a lot to the citizenship process, and today was a very emotional day," Waters said, looking down at the official citizenship documents. "This makes it official."