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Celebrating Independence Day by Welcoming New Citizens

President Obama and key members of the administration celebrate the Fourth of July by welcoming newly naturalized citizens in cities across the country.

In naturalization ceremonies across the country last week, including at locations important to American history, members of the Obama Administration welcomed scores of newly naturalized citizens in commemoration of our nation’s independence. President Obama himself hosted a special naturalization ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

In remarks at Mount Vernon Estate, Virginia, home of America’s first president, Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, acknowledged that America’s history is rooted in the immigrant experiences of generations. “This is really a perfect day for this ceremony. Two-hundred thirty six years ago, 56 founders put their names on a piece of paper. Up until that moment, none of them were American. Even those who had spent their entire lives in one of the thirteen colonies had grown up in another country,” remarked Ms. Muñoz.

At a naturalization ceremony in New York City, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis praised the role that new Americans play in making the United States great: “Today, what you can do for your country is contribute your talents. Our economy needs your skills, your ambition and your work ethic. I know many of you are already doing this. In this room, we have citizens who are raising families and citizens who are going to college. We have citizens who work in finance and citizens who work in restaurants. We have citizens who care for sick people and citizens who work for the United Nations. Each of your contributions is important. Each of you matter.” To read Secretary Solis’ speech, click here.

Secretary Solis at a Naturalization Ceremony in New York City

Secretary Solis welcomes 21 new Americans as they take their oath of citizenship during an immigration ceremony in New York City (Photo courtesy of the Department of Labor)

Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu gave a moving speech at the William Paca House and Garden in Annapolis, Maryland in which he highlighted the responsibility new Americans have to this country. “If President Obama were here, he would tell you that my story, his story, and all of your stories exemplify ‘the spirit of possibility’ in our country… But this ‘spirit of possibility’ also comes with a price. It comes with responsibilities. And one of those responsibilities is being a participant in the world’s most vibrant democracy.”

Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley and Small Business Administrator Karen Mills provided congratulatory remarks on board the USS Constitution in Boston, Massachusetts.  Chair Sutley remarked, “On this Fourth of July, I congratulate all of you on this important achievement. Your hard work and determination has led you here today, and I welcome you as our newest citizens. I am confident that you too will carry the spirit and dedication of those who came before you, and that you will strengthen our great heritage as a nation of immigrants.”

President Obama, along with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas, hosted a very special Independence Day naturalization ceremony at the White House for 25 active duty service men and women and their families. These men and women came to the U.S. from countries around the world. And even as new comers to the United States, they chose to defend American values, to fight for our freedom through service in the military.

President Obama at Naturalization Ceremony July 4, 2012

President Barack Obama listens as Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano administers the oath of allegiance during a military naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House, July 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In his remarks, the President stated, “As members of our military, you raised your hand and took an oath of service… Today, you’ve raised your hand and have taken an oath of citizenship.” Together with Secretary Napolitano and Director Mayorkas, President Obama highlighted the importance of welcoming new comers to the United States:

“…[A]ll of you did something profound: you chose to serve. You put on the uniform of a country that was not yet fully your own. In a time of war, some of you deployed into harm’s way. You displayed the values we celebrate every Fourth of July—duty, responsibility, patriotism.” To watch the President’s Speech, click here.

As we celebrate the birth of our nation and the ideas rooted in its founding – that all people are created equal, that all share in the responsibility of cherishing and protecting freedom, and that all have a role to play in our democracy – the President and the entire Administration welcome our country’s newest Americans and look forward to the next chapter of American history that we will all write together.

Julie Chavez Rodriguez is an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement.