Speech by USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans:
- I would like to begin by thanking the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. David Skorton, and the Director of the National Museum of American History, Dr. Anthea Hartig, for hosting today’s ceremony.
- I particularly want to thank Dr. Skorton for his leadership as the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian, as he prepares to return to the private sector after four years of service leading this great institution. I understand that today’s events are among his last public events as Secretary and I think it’s an entirely fitting and celebratory event. Thank you Dr. Skorton.
- I also would like to thank Congresswoman Doris Matsui of California for joining us today. Congresswoman Matsui is a Member of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian.
- Lastly, I want to thank David Copperfield for making this event even more special with his historically symbolic and memorable illusion.
- New citizens, on behalf of the men and women of USCIS, it is my honor to be the first to address you as, “My fellow Americans.”
- The oath that you just took is the same oath that both of my parents took more than fifty years ago when they became American citizens. Perhaps like some of your children, I was born in this country, but my mother and father both immigrated here. So it is a distinct privilege for me to join you and take part in such an important milestone in your lives.
- This day not only marks the beginning of your first day as new American citizens, but it also marks an important day in the history of our nation. Today, June 14, is Flag Day.
- I cannot think of a more appropriate place to celebrate Flag Day than here at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History—the home of the first Stars and Stripes.
- The sight of our flag—still waving after the British attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812—inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would become our national anthem, the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
- The 50 stars on our flag representing our 50 states remind us that the many are joined together to form a greater whole—the United States of America.
- As U.S. citizens, you too are a part of the greater whole and play an important role in the future of our country.
- Each of you bring unique experiences, skills, and talents to your community and to our nation.
- I know that today may represent for you the end of a long road, a road that began in another country, perhaps many years or decades ago. But I am here to tell you that today is not the end of your American journey, in fact it’s just the beginning.
- I ask you to devote the same energy and dedication to your new U.S. citizenship that it took to reach this point today as you make positive contributions to our country. Register to vote. Get involved in your children’s school and your local community. Participate in your church, temple, or synagogue or volunteer at a local organization. Serve in our armed forces. Operate a business or even run for public office. America needs you.
We are honored to meet today in the National Museum of American History on our National Mall – 150 acres of land where we honor some of our country’s greatest leaders – like George Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. – and milestones – like the World War II memorial – as well as more complicated aspects of our nation’s history like the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I urge you to visit them if you have not already. I would like to highlight two quotes from the landmarks that surround us here, and their relevance to your citizenship here today.
- At one end of the National Mall is the Memorial to our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, who is credited with saving the unity of the country. Inscribed on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial are his words at Gettysburg, perhaps his most famous speech, and one that ends with his call “that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.” Now, as U.S. citizens, it’s also your job to help us all make sure of that.
- Just a few blocks east of here is the National Archives, which contains the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights – America’s founding documents. The Constitution that you just pledged to support and defend. Inscribed on the podium of a statute outside the building are these words, attributed to our third President, Thomas Jefferson, carved in granite: “Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty.” And so, as new U.S. citizens, this vigilance is your responsibility now as well.
- I ask you, as you continue your American journey, to remember those two thoughts: the preservation of democracy and the vigilance necessary to preserve liberty. On this Flag Day and every day, I encourage each of you to take full advantage of the rights and responsibilities that come with U.S. citizenship.
- As the agency that administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, USCIS has been with you from the day you sought your first immigration status, to the day you became a lawful permanent resident, to today when you took the Oath of Allegiance.
- I am proud to welcome you as the newest generation of American citizens, as individuals who have made a commitment to this great nation.
- Congratulations to you all for becoming American citizens here today.
- Thank you.
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