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To America's Newest Citizens: Yes We Can

We say it when things are hard. When things are tough. It’s a rallying cry that we are not scared of the future. That #YesWeCan build the future.

Editor's Note: U.S. Deputy Chief Technnology Officer for Data Policy and Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil spoke to a group of our newest citizens at a Naturalization Ceremony in Dallas, Texas this morning. The following are his remarks as prepared.

Good morning everyone! Thank you Officer Mouse, Acting District Director Tarango and Acting Field Office Director Enis.

And most of all, thank you to my newly minted, fellow Americans! Our newest citizens, I am honored to be here and share in this special day with all of you.  

I’d like to start with comic book superheroes. All superheroes have an ‘origin story’ which is the back-story that reveals how a character or a group of people came to where they are now. For example, Superman’s origin story is about being an immigrant—from another planet, of course. And let’s not leave out Wonder Woman, she’s also an immigrant. Both came here as outsiders to help fight for peace, justice, and liberty.

The origin story of this country begins with the Native Americans. And now, our shared country is the story of immigrants. For more than 200 years now, we’ve been building our strength as a nation through immigration. Just like a family, as a nation, we’ve had good times and bad. Easier times and harder times. But, through our collective efforts, we have persevered. Thanks to you we will continue to create a diverse nation with a wide variety of ideas, heritage, religion, and even food. 

And there have been questions about the value of immigration. A question of if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts? Every time this has happened, we have decided as a nation that immigration is our superpower. And the results have benefited all of us.

In 2016, Nobel Prizes were given to 6 scientists at American universities, in Chemistry, in Physics, and in Economics. The common thread? All 6 of these scientists were born outside of the United States.

Companies like Intel, YouTube, Google, and Tesla are creating the economy of the future. What do they share? All were founded or co-founded by immigrants. In fact, of the US-based startups that were valued at $1 billion or more in 2016, half were founded or co-founded by immigrants. 

And me. The reason this event is so special for me, is that I’m an immigrant. I was born in New Delhi, India. I immigrated to the United States when I was young. We moved to Boston, where my father was a professor. An immigrant professor who would go on to create a dozen companies. Later in my life, I met the woman who was to be my wife. She too, an immigrant. We have two kids. They are both children of immigrants. And I wouldn’t want to raise them anywhere else. So, this is deeply personal to me.

A little over a year ago, President Obama gave remarks at an event like this. While he is a hard act to follow, he is an excellent act to imitate. I’m going to borrow some of his words here. He said:

The truth is, being an American is hard. Being part of a democratic government is hard. Being a citizen is hard. It is a challenge. It’s supposed to be. There’s no respite from our ideals. All of us are called to live up to our expectations for ourselves -- not just when it’s convenient, but when it’s inconvenient. When it’s tough. When we’re afraid. The tension throughout our history between welcoming or rejecting the stranger, it’s about more than just immigration. It’s about the meaning of America, what kind of country do we want to be. It’s about the capacity of each generation to honor the creed as old as our founding: “E Pluribus Unum” -- that out of many, we are one.


We also have another saying at the White House that comes from our President: #YesWeCan. We say it when things are hard. When things are tough. It’s a rallying cry that we are not scared of the future. That #YesWeCan build the future. 

You have just taken an oath and committed to making this country your home. My nation is now your nation. My children’s nation is now your children’s nation. This is our nation.  You have stepped forward to stand up for the ideals, values, and carry the country forward.  You are each superheroes with your own origin stories. Now, your origin story, my origin story, and the county’s origin story all become our origin story.

Everything we do needs to be infused with the sense of possibility.

When I see the challenges we face, I do not have fear. I have hope. Because I am here, today, with you: fellow citizens with a shared bond forged under the same pledge adding to the rich foundation of this country.  Because together we can.  #YesWeCan. 

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.