A remarkable milestone was reached Thursday morning for exactly 88 foreign nationals living and working in the Brazos Valley. Each was sworn in as U.S. Citizens in front of family, friends and even former president George HW Bush and first lady Barbara Bush.
Imagine one room filled with 26 countries sitting shoulder to shoulder in peace.
"My family is from Nigeria," said Gideon Igbeare, who now lives in Houston. "I came in 1984, as a matter of fact, January 22, 1984."
“I grew up about 10-15 minutes from the U.S. border,” said Mike Hanik, a Texas A&M Professor, a native of Canada.
And in that room, there are no borders dividing the people, or oppressing beliefs or dreams.
“Once you're here as a resident, you have the freedom to do those things and in a lot of other countries you don't have those freedoms,” explained Hanik.
“When you become a citizen you have the opportunity to pursue your dreams,” said Igbeare.
Instead, each and every one sees eye-to-eye while sharing the insatiable desire for democracy.
“When you put a law in Nigeria they don't follow it -- it becomes chaos,” said Igbeare. “There are laws in the U.S. and they have to be followed, I mean, Nigeria is a great country to be in, but the thing is they have a lot of poor, hungry people and many in town are embezzling oil money.”
“The freedom to express your mind, to worship and the freedom to speak your mind and your not held up or jailed or anything like that,” added Igbeare-Thomas. "It's an exciting feeling to be able to vote and to do the things that you should do as a citizen in your community."
Taking her first official steps towards American Citizenship in front of family and friends, Sara Igbeare-Thomas and 87 others legally became U.S. Citizens.
“It's joyful, it's peaceful, it's everything,” said Igbeare-Thomas.
“Becoming a citizen in the U.S. is not an easy thing to do, I know this because I went through it,” explained Igbeare, “You have to go through a lot of protocols like filling out papers, fingerprints, background checks and testing.”
"I went into the interview as a professor and I was like, yea, I need to pass this test,” laughed Hanik. “The naturalization test is somewhere around 100 questions and I went over some of them with my students and most of them knew the answers, but some didn’t.”
With every obstacle and success encountered, the people in the room are no longer a number, rather U.S. Citizens eager to exercise America's promise of freedom and opportunity.
Thursday’s ceremony is being held in conjunction with a 3500 mile bike and walk across America to empower today's youth to be active citizens in their community.