On Thursday, 26 men and women from 21 countries became newly minted American citizens before Chief U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen and a courtroom full of supportive family and friends.

In his address to the citizenship candidates, Judge Christensen related his own family history as his grandfather immigrated to America from Denmark. He advised the new citizens about their Constitutional rights and their responsibility to vote and be active in their communities. He also quoted a former U.S. President.

“Former President Jimmy Carter described the United States, not as a melting pot, but a beautiful mosaic consisting of different people with different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes and different dreams.”

Attending the ceremony was the 7th grade U.S. government class of Courtney Strizke from St. Joseph School, one of whom sang the national anthem to open the ceremony.

“Today was really just watching what we talked about in class in action,” said Strizke. “They know the steps of becoming a citizen and they’ve learned the process, but to see it in real life is very valuable. I think they’ll take away a greater appreciation for what they were all given at birth, and the rights and responsibilities we have as citizens have been earned by this group of people, so I think they’ll just walk away with an appreciation of what they get to do on a daily basis as American citizens.”

One of those new American citizens is Anna Butsanova who came to the U.S. seven years ago from Kazakhstan. KGVO asked Ms. Butsanova about her life in her native country of Kazakhstan.

“Kazakhstan is still a young country and after the fall of the Soviet Union it was not nice, and so it was very hard growing up there,” she said. “United States is I think way better. I like this country, that’s why I am becoming a citizen.”

Representatives of both Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines read letters to the new citizens, and received copies of the signed statements along with their citizenship papers and American flags from the Daughters of the American Revolution.