MIDDLETOWN \u2014 U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit Judge Susan L. Carney presided over a recent naturalization ceremony in an unusual location. Calling it a \u201cbeautiful, landmark day,\u201d Carney admitted, \u201cI don\u2019t usually have chandeliers in court, so I\u2019m delighted to be here for such a celebratory occasion\u201d at the Middletown Elks Club\u2019s Crystal Ballroom. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., state Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, and Common Councilman Gerald Daley were among dignitaries who gathered at 44 Maynard St. for the ceremony late last week. \u201cPerhaps the greatest responsibility new citizens have is to uphold the mantle of freedom, and live that dream that is the American experience,\u201d Joseph M. Zackaricz, section chief of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Hartford, told close to 100 individuals in the audience. In all, 52 people from 29 countries took the oath of allegiance. Because this year\u2019s ceremony was dedicated to those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, representatives of the city\u2019s numerous veterans groups filled the two front rows. They were joined by several dozen candidates, including four U.S. Army and two Marine Corps members, as well as their families and guest. They were natives of Albania, American Samoa, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Kosovo, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Vietnam. \u201cCongratulations on your reaching this momentous milestone in your immigration journey,\u201d Zackaricz said. Middletown DAV Chapter No. 7 Commander John DiMauro led the new citizens and guests in the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, the room grew silent as Coginchaug Regional High School senior student Kylie Toggio delivered a heartfelt rendition of the National Anthem as an American flag undulated on a television screen behind her. \u201cOur nation has welcomed millions of immigrants to our shores: immigrants who have a profound impact, not only on the United States of America, but on the world as well. Immigrants who have strengthened the very fabric of our nation with their contributions to American society and prosperity,\u201d Zackaricz said. \u201cGenerations of immigrants like you have come to this country, seeking a place where democracy is not just an ideal but a reality: where opportunities are available to everyone,\u201d he added, urging those gathered to become active citizens and give back to the community. Blumenthal, who spoke of his father, who in 1935 at 17 came alone to this country from Germany to escape persecution. \u201cHe had not much more than the shirt on his back. This country gave him a chance to succeed,\u201d the state\u2019s senior U.S. senator said. The soon-to-be Americans took a test that most other U.S. citizens could not pass, he added, as many laughed. \u201cMany of you came from long distances, over many miles and seas, and you will never take for granted becoming a U.S. citizen. When I look across this crowd, what I see is America: different races, opinions, walks of life, backgrounds that make us great. That\u2019s our strength and our virtue,\u201d Blumenthal said. Lourdes Montalvo, director of state constituent services, spoke on behalf of Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who had a last-minute meeting. \u201cYou are going to be out there, making others understand, especially the newer generation, the importance of voting, to get engaged, and the importance of making democracy work,\u201d she said. Daley stood in for Mayor Dan Drew, because he was out of town, he said, noting the Elks are particularly committed to serving young people and veterans. Most of those gathered in the ballroom enjoy citizenship as a birthright, Daley said. \u201cYou earned your citizenship. You chose to become citizens. It\u2019s not about nationalism or ethnicity. It\u2019s about ideals, principles and democratic values that we uphold, honor and advocate for, not a bloodline,\u201d said Daley, whose great-grandparents emigrated from Ireland. In 1790, the first naturalization laws passed. For 225 years, taking the oath of allegiance has led to citizenship, Zackaricz said. Amita Srivastava is a Trumbull resident born in India. \u201cThis calls for a celebration. I\u2019m a citizen now,\u201d said Srivastava, whose husband and children are naturalized. William Currlin, the Elks chaplain in charge of the veterans committee, attended several of the prior ceremonies at City Hall, which took a two-year hiatus. He noticed cramped conditions in Council Chambers, and thought the ballroom would be a better, larger venue. \u201cIt\u2019s a heartwarming feeling to know these people want to be one of us,\u201d said Currlin, who has asked to host the ceremony again in 2019. \u201cMany people don\u2019t realize you can be in the military and not be a citizen. \u201cThese guys are fast tracked when they are seeking citizenship. When I think of it, I get a tear in my eye,\u201d he said. Bristol resident Esraa Badewy, who came from Egypt, said she is proud to be an American. \u201cAlready we have a new life, a new future. It\u2019s so exciting,\u201d said her husband Ahmed Abdelmawla.