After trying to earn U.S. citizenship since she arrived from the Philippines 15 years ago, Raquel received it during a naturalization ceremony in Cape Girardeau.
"I've been wanting this for a long time, and it finally came," said Raquel, a teacher in New Madrid, Mo., who celebrates her birthday today. "I fell in love with this country when I came here as a tourist and have wanted this ever since."
Raquel was among 14 people who participated in the ceremony at the Rush H. Limbaugh Sr. U.S. Courthouse. The event coincided with the dedication of a history and educational display inside the building.
The program included presentation of colors by American Legion Post 63, singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," remarks by dignitaries, the Pledge of Allegiance and the administration of the U.S. citizenship oath.
Murat Yalcin, a food service worker at Southeast Missouri State University who immigrated from Turkey 18 years ago, was at a loss for words moments after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as an official U.S. citizen.
"I can't put what I'm feeling into words," Yalcin said. "As I was saying the pledge, I felt like a part of this country. I feel like I now am a part of this great nation."
In addition to Turkey and the Philippines, those who earned their citizenship on Friday hailed from Argentina, Canada, India, Mexico and New Zealand.
Requirements for their citizenship included demonstrating their ability to read, write and speak basic English as well as the comprehending basic knowledge of U.S. history and government.
"For those newly naturalized citizens today, your preparation for citizenship and this wonderful day are now part of the history you will tell," Emerson said. "And your aspirations for this country are also part of our aspirations."
For his part, Southeast president Dr. Ken Dobbins compared the importance of the ceremony to the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
"Today's ceremony tells us that dream is still alive," Dobbins said.
After the ceremony concluded, the crowd had the opportunity to tour the new Judicial Education and History Center that was dedicated by Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr., the first federal judge assigned permanently to work in Cape Girardeau. The courthouse and exhibit are named in honor of Limbaugh's grandfather.
Located on the first floor of the courthouse, the exhibit explains the functions of federal courts and how they differ from state courts, recognizes the history of Southeast Missouri's federal courts and tells the story of Rush H. Limbaugh Sr.
555 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO