Breaking News
More () »

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, new U.S. citizens take their oaths in Colonial Williamsburg

More than 40 people officially became U.S. citizens Friday, on the eve of the nation's anniversary of signing the U.S. Constitution.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — A dream is now a reality for dozens of people in Colonial Williamsburg

On Friday, more than 40 people became U.S. citizens in the area’s first naturalization ceremony since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Yes, this is a very big step for me," said Brix Bedresso. "Naturalization is my dream."

Bedresso has dreamt about this moment since his family immigrated to California from the Philippines. He later joined the Navy, which brought him to Hampton Roads. 

“The Navy gave me a good opportunity to start my new life here in America," said Bedresso. 

The group, representing 30 countries, took their oath of allegiance on the colonial capitol lawn.  Prior to the pandemic, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation hosted the ceremony annually dating back to 1976. 

“When we look at these naturalization ceremonies we see that promise fulfilled and more proof that the American experiment is enduring," said Bryan Austin, a Colonial Williamsburg actor and interpreter who delivered the keynote address. 

The rights of American citizenship were first established at the Williamsburg Capitol in 1776 with the creation of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. According to experts in Colonial Williamsburg, Thomas Jefferson later referenced the document when he drafted the Declaration of Independence one month later. 

Saturday, September 17, also marks the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. 

“Seven of the framers of the Constitution were immigrants," said Austin. 

The debate on immigration is again heating up nationwide.

RELATED: Yes, Florida allocated $12 million to transport migrants out of the state

However, Austin says the ceremony, including when and where it took place, is a reminder of what the United States set out to become. 

“This is one of the rare instances where the sentiment, 'This is what this country is,' is extending out of love, out of charity, out of fraternity," he said.  "And it is so much better than any other sentiment that can prevail." 

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation hosted the ceremony, along with the Williamsburg chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. 

On Saturday, Colonial Williamsburg will celebrate the 235th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution with a free event, "To Support and Defend." 

It will take place from 5:30 - 7 p.m. on the lawn in front of the Art Museum, and will feature a combined ensemble of members of the USAF Heritage of America Band, the USN Fleet Forces Band, Marine Corps musicians, and more.

Before You Leave, Check This Out