29 men and women from 20 countries stood in the Russell Smith Federal Courthouse on Thursday morning to take the oath of citizenship from U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen DeSoto.

In her message to the new citizens, Judge DeSoto brought home the meaning of the national motto E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One.

“I look at all of you, and it’s amazing the countries that you came from, the different genders, religions and ethnicities that you represent, and that’s part of what makes America great,” said Judge DeSoto. “We’re not great because we’re just one. You don’t lose your identity when you become a citizen. You enhance America by your own individuality and your differences, and I thank you for that.”

Judge DeSoto, in her first ever naturalization ceremony, also gave some words of wisdom about the nature of politics in America.


“One of the phrases bandied about these days is ‘fake news’, so be careful where you get your information,” she said. “We have a saying in America, ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’, and there are plenty of ways to get information about candidates and about issues. You can go to city council meetings, you can listen to debates. Make sure that you inform yourselves as best as you can, because ultimately when you vote, it’s your decision.”


One of the new citizens, Zee Lin Cheok is from Malaysia and works at a nonprofit agency in Anaconda. She said the most difficult aspect of the naturalization process was the exam, particularly one subject.

“History,” she laughed. “I’m not good at history, so I had to memorize American history, but it’s a really good story about how Americans made America great. From your history, so many have fought in wars, but we keep growing and it’s really great. The life is a lot easier, the systems are really convenient especially when it comes to daily life, for example: we used to hand wash all the dishes and sun dry all the clothes in Malaysia but here we have a dishwasher and dryer that can make life a lot easier. I also enjoy the work-life balance and the freedom here, that's why I choose America."

Some of the other countries represented were Belarus, Bulgaria, Brazil, Burma, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Philippines, St. Lucia, South Korea, , Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom and Venezuela.

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