Thousands of people become new U.S. citizens every year, but not many get to do it while shaking the hand of a former president.
About 40 immigrants became citizens on Thursday at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, the first time such a ceremony has ever been held there.
Former President Carter himself attended. In remarks to the group, Carter said he's never subscribed to the "melting pot model" of U.S. citizenship.
"I think it's much better described as a beautiful mosaic, like a beautiful painting made with different colored tiles for instance," Carter said. "Everyone comes here and forms, collectively, a beautiful America."
For 30-year-old Niki Patel, a physician in Macon, citizenship after 5 1/2 years of residency was important not just to him but also to his growing family.
"We just had our newborns last week," Patel said, referring to his new twins. "I feel really great for them."
Fathma Carlisle of Warner Robins said her road to citizenship was long arduous, but the ceremony made her feel it was well worth it.
"I’m so glad that it was held here, and I had the honor and opportunity to actually meet ... Mr. Carter," Carlisle said. "I’m just in heaven."
Carlisle said she looks forward to voicing her opinions and voting in the next election cycle.
The event in Plaines was part of a new initiative by federal immigration authorities in Atlanta to offer citizenship ceremonies beyond the city, as more immigrants arrive in rural parts of the state.
Grant Blankenship is a photojournalist for the Telegraph of Macon
Contributors: Adam Ragusea