51st Naturalization Ceremony Held at Monticello - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

51st Naturalization Ceremony Held at Monticello

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In a Fourth of July tradition spanning more than half a century, 79 new Americans took their oaths of citizenship Thursday morning at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

The ceremonies also marked the return of one of Charlottesville's own, musician Dave Matthews, who knows the journey these new Americans have taken.

"I am an immigrant, and I am a citizen. And it's a great pleasure to be here with y'all," Matthews said to the crowd.

Long before the platinum records and the sold-out concerts, Dave Matthews was an immigrant. He explained at the ceremony, "My family moved here in 1969, I was the third of four children."

The son of a South African physicist, Matthews became a naturalized citizen in 1980, moving to Charlottesville six years later.

Thursday, July 4, he returned once again to his adopted home to welcome some of America's newest citizens.

"Our future history belongs to you as much as to anyone. This is the America of jazz and the blues and rock ‘n' roll and the civil rights movement and putting a man on the moon and of the atomic bomb. This is the America of a complicated history, and it is a nation of immigrants," Matthews said to the crowd.

Florentino Perez, who also spoke at the ceremony, brought his family from Mexico to Charlottesville more than five years ago.

"When I spoke in front of the people, my voice was breaking because it's an emotional time. It's a moment that I will never forget," he said.

Perez said in his speech, "We are good people, people who come to work, to show everybody that we are good workers, that we are honest, that we are willing to do something for this country."

For him, Thursday's ceremony is the conclusion of a long journey. He's leaned on family for support, and found friends in others like Rebecca Snider, a citizenship educator.

"It's just so rewarding. It's a wonderful thing to get a call from somebody that says, ‘I'm going to get my citizenship next week!'" Snider said.

Now living in Fluvanna County, Perez says he's proud to be able to call America his home.

"This is a country of opportunities, and I wanted to take one of those. That's why I'm here," Perez said.

It was an emotional, family-filled day at Monticello as people from almost 40 countries joined the American family.

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