Published: June 08, 2019
Freedom means many things to many people. For David Kollie, it's the opportunity to survive. He and his family escaped war in Libya for peace in America.
"Back home, graduating from high school was uncertain, because of the off and on wars. The education that I got here, I'm just to be grateful to America. Back home, I wouldn't be able to dream about graduating," Kollie said.
Kollie said with prayer, hard work and decades of waiting the unthinkable happened Friday morning. He walked across the stage as a U.S. citizen.
"Thank God for everybody who helped because he went through a lot," his mother-in-law said.
He wasn't alone. More than 100 men and women from 49 countries did the same thing during a naturalization ceremony at the Knoxville City Council building.
City leaders and legal teams handed off flags and proof of citizenship. It was something Kollie's family said is his key to a better life.
"We didn't know if we were going to survive. Stray bullets killing people here and there and here we are," his mother said.
His moment encouraged others, like Kollie's wife, to see citizenship also.
"He doesn't have to be looking over his shoulder every time he does something or go anywhere. he can live in freedom and do whatever he wants to do. and his voice can be heard whenever it's necessary," Bendu Kollie, his wife, said.
Several registered to vote after they received their citizenship. The ceremony is held only twice a year in east Tennessee. It was the biggest class of 2019.
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