ITHACA, N.Y. –– The Tompkins County courthouse was buzzing with excitement as 35 people were sworn in as new U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony Wednesday.

Tompkins County Legislator Anne Koreman welcomed the crowd, highlighting the beauty of differences that immigrants bring to the country.

“When I look around this room I see a lot of differences,” Koreman said. “Rather than America being a melting pot, where we possibly lose our differences, I see America as more of a rainbow where we celebrate our differences.”

The 35 petitioners were asked to take an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S., finalizing their legal citizenship. Judge John Rowley presided over the ceremony.

Rowley has made it a practice when presiding over naturalization ceremonies to give each new citizen a high-five.

“If you don’t get a high-five you’re not a citizen,” Rowley joked. “We welcome you, it’s now your responsibility to help make this country better,” he went on to say after the high-fives.

Liz Susmann, the project co-director and teacher at Open Door English, also addressed the room of new citizens.

“I am humbled every day and inspired by my students’ cheerful perseverance to build lives here that are rich and meaningful,” she said.

Many of the people at the ceremony Wednesday brought family and friends to celebrate the occasion.

Derek Goddard’s two daughters watched proudly as their father was sworn in at the courthouse. Goddard moved to Ithaca 10 years ago with his daughters from London, looking to provide them with a better quality of life. Living in the U.K., for him and his girls, got too expensive to create opportunities for education and community involvement.

The ceremony for him makes official his new found home in the U.S.

“It’s emotional, it’s been a journey,” Goddard said. “I feel at home, which I never got in London.”

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at