Shaun Mursell came to the United States from the United Kingdom about six years ago to attend Dalton State College. Once here, the 24-year-old developed an interest in American law.
"I fell in love with the legal system here," he said.
Mursell is applying to law school, and he hopes one day to become a federal judge. To achieve his long-term goal, he decided to become a U.S. citizen.
More than 100 candidates from more than 40 countries became U.S. citizens Thursday afternoon at a ceremony at the National Guard Armory. Chattanooga typically holds two naturalization ceremonies a year.
In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, more than 619,000 people were naturalized in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. More than 4,200 people in Tennessee and 213 people in the Chattanooga area became citizens during that time.
On Thursday, after placing their hands on their chests during the Pledge of Allegiance, the candidates for naturalization each stood and said the name of his home country. Mursell particularly liked this aspect of the event because it gave the ceremony "a special edge."
The candidates were administered the Oath of Allegiance, in which they renounced fidelity to their previous country of citizenship and officially became Americans.
U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice, who presided over the ceremony, said these events are one of the few times where he presides over "absolutely joyous occasions."
"This country will be whatever you and your loved ones want it to be," Mattice told Thursday's group.
Phyllis Carter of the Daughters of the American Revolution's local chapter also addressed the newly minted citizens, telling them they have a responsibility to protect the freedoms that come with citizenship.
Truong Nguyen, 36, who came to the United States from Vietnam in 1990, said before the ceremony that becoming a citizen is important to him because it gives him a place to belong.
"I feel like just now I'm being accepted in America," the Sevierville, Tenn., resident said.