Remarks by the First Lady at a Naturalization Ceremony
The National Archives
11:11 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, let me join Jeh by saying good morning, my fellow Americans. Sounds pretty good, huh? (Laughter.) You like that, right? All right, I’m going to loosen you up if it takes all morning. You’re now citizens! It’s very cool. (Laughter.) And I am honored to be here. This is an exciting day, and it’s just wonderful that I can be among the first to congratulate you on becoming American citizens.
And I also want to welcome your family and friends who are here -- let’s see the family members who are here. Where are they? You guys are here, that’s good, that’s good. Yes. (Applause.) I know how important these people are because I know that they’ve supported you every step of the way. And I see that they are beaming with pride, so welcome.
I want to thank Secretary Johnson, Director Scialabba, for taking the time to be here today and for their tremendous work. I also want to especially thank David and the incredible staff at the National Archives for making today’s event possible. This is a beautiful setting.
It’s amazing that just a few feet from here where I’m standing are the signatures of the 56 Founders who put their names on a Declaration that changed the course of history. And like the 50 of you, none of them were born American -- they became American.
Just like you’re about to pledge allegiance to our flag, they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to this extraordinary idea that we now know as America -– the notion that we are all created equal, endowed with fundamental rights and freedoms that no one can ever take away from us.
People come from across the globe to see these documents, to read the names and signatures of the very first “Americans-by-choice,” because they know that this room holds the first chapter of our shared history. And today, it holds the next chapter of our story, as well.
As the newest “Americans-by-choice,” you, too, will play an important part in shaping our history. Some of you were brought here as children. Others came here to be with a loved one. Some of you, like Parish Sapkota, have risked their lives for this country by serving overseas. Others haven’t worn the uniform themselves, but have served America by supporting a spouse or a child who has.
Take Blue Star Mom Zlatka Stefanova. Her son Marian was wounded in an ambush in Iraq. He spent 18 months at Walter Reed recovering from his injuries. And today, with the love and support of his mother, Marian is a proud officer in the Fairfax Police Department.
But no matter what your story, from this day forward, for the rest of your lives, you will always be able to say, “Yes, I am an American citizen.” And I know this is an exciting, hopeful time for all of you, but it’s also an exciting, hopeful time for our country. Because the fact is, America needs you.
Immigration is at the heart of how we developed as a nation. In every generation, immigrants have earned their place as part of “We the People.” With the exception of just a few ethnicities, every person in this country can trace their history back to a parent, or a grandparent, or a great-grandparent, or an ancestor who made that choice to be part of this country.
And today, much of our success is because we still very much are a nation of immigrants. Immigrants start roughly one in four of our new businesses. About 30,000 permanent residents serve in our military. And according to one study, over the past 50 years, more than a quarter of our Nobel Laureates based in the U.S. have been foreign-born.
So in many ways, it is because of, not in spite of, our immigrant population that we grow stronger every single day. Yet today, here in Washington, folks are still debating whether or not to fix our immigration system even though just about everyone agrees that it is broken. But I want you all to know that my husband has made this his top legislative priority, and he refuses to give up the fight. Because at the end of the day, this fight isn’t just about abstract principles, it’s about real people. People like you. People like us -- our fellow Americans.
That’s who you are. You came here today as citizens of 44 different countries, and you’ll leave here as citizens of one great nation -– the United States of America. And I hope that you never take that for granted, because I know how hard you worked for this. You earned it. And to be a citizen of this country is an incredible blessing.
And what I hope you always remember is that, as citizens, we do not shut the doors of opportunity behind us. We preserve the promise of America. We renew it. We extend it so that future generations of Americans -– Americans by birth and “Americans-by-choice” -– can do their part to form the more perfect union that our founders imagined so many years ago.
So I want to once again congratulate you on this important honor, this extraordinary honor. And I wish you the very best of luck on your journey ahead as citizens of this great country.
Thank you so much, and God bless. (Applause.)
11:18 A.M. EDT