It was hard not to get choked up recently as 65 people of all races and creeds raised their right hands and vowed to defend and respect the United States.

I counted 22 countries of origin represented at the service.Beauty is not a word that generally comes to mind when I'm covering Human Service stories.

Most of the stories revolve around people in the middle of one or more crises.

But Utah's Naturalization Day and the ceremony that went along with it was powerful and moving.

Multiple generations of families and a large number of friends gathered to watch immigrants become citizens.

It was a celebration.

Their personal styles were as different as their backgrounds. Dozens were dressed casually in jeans or shorts and T-shirts. Others wore their finest suits and dresses. One new citizen was accompanied by a dozen Air Force colleagues in full uniform.

They all wore smiles.

For some of the immigrants-turned-Americans, it was a hard journey. For all it meant learning American history (something many native-born Americans haven't really bothered with).

It also meant giving up a part of themselves - their old countries - to embrace something new and for many very different.

The American Dream was vibrating with life.

The swearing-in was held in Judge David Winder's courtroom in the federal courthouse. After the formal ceremony, Winder turned the microphone over to those who had moments before become Americans, with all the rights, privileges and, as he emphasized, responsibilities that go along with citizenship.

Each one introduced himself or herself, identified friends and family in the audience and spoke - some briefly, some eloquently - about why they had taken the step of becoming naturalized.

One young man and his mother took the oath together. The young man's father had died recently; he had wanted to become an American. They fulfilled his wish posthumously.

An elderly man told of "escaping" Vietnam by boat. His daughter and grandchildren listened with tears in their eyes.

A woman from England said her reason was simple: She had American sons and an American husband. "Today," she concluded, "I, too, am an American."

One theme was woven through most of their comments: They all look forward to the chance to vote. To make a difference.

It seems like that's a slightly unAmerican thought.

We are born with the right to vote as soon as we turn 18 and too often don't bother to exercise it.

People always ask if one vote can really make a difference. Of course it does. Particularly in districts where voter turnout is as low as 15 percent.

A few days ago, a woman called me to complain about a bill the Legislature passed last year. She kept returning to her central theme: "We should throw the bums out."

Perhaps because the naturalization ceremony was still burning in my mind, I asked her if she is active politically.

"Why bother?" she asked. "I can't make a difference."

A lot of people seem to feel that way. But if 65 new Americans are right, those people couldn't be more wrong.

Everyone should attend a naturalization ceremony. It's a very life - and country - affirming experience.

Most of us will never know what it's like to work and study and even risk danger for the right to vote. We are, in the words of an immigrant woman from Tonga, "spoiled."

Sometimes you just can't appreciate what you have until you see it with someone else's eyes.