Archivist remarks for Bill of Rights Naturalization Ceremony
December 15th 2015
Rotunda, National Archives Building, Washington DC
Thank you Stuart Hobson Middle School for that wonderful rendition of the Preamble!
Good morning! And welcome to the Rotunda of the National Archives. First and foremost congratulations to our 31 new citizens!
It is a great honor to have the President of the United States here with us today to celebrate your American citizenship. Thank you to Deputy Secretary Mayorkas, Judge Roberts, and Director Rodriguez for joining us.
The National Archives is proud to host this naturalization ceremony with the President, the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the United States District Courts for the District of Columbia.
I can think of no better place to become an American citizen than in front of these documents. Behind me is the Constitution, which remains the basis on which our Federal Government is structured. The Preamble, which the students just recited, contains three important words: "We, The People." That brief phrase captures the essence of our democracy.
Over to my right is the Declaration of Independence, the parchment that our Founding Fathers signed in 1776 in Philadelphia. They risked their lives, their families' lives and all they owned in signing it. We have them to thank for our freedoms today.
And to my left is the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. These amendments were added to the Constitution exactly 224 years ago today. These amendments are the basic personal rights and freedoms guaranteed to every American which you will exercise every day.
These documents, these Charters of Freedom, make up our foundation as U.S. citizens.
I am the grandson of Italian immigrants and great-grandson of Irish immigrants. Using passenger lists here at the National Archives, I discovered that my grandfather, Paolo Ferriero, at age 15, arrived in Boston from Naples aboard the ship Commonwealth on March 22, 1903. My grandmother, Antonia Giorgio, also from Naples, arrived on March 8, 1909, aboard the Romantic.
Many Americans have stories like mine, and now you, our newly naturalized citizens, will have your own journey to share. Here at the National Archives we have over 12 billion pages of records. Becoming American citizens makes you part of the National Archives too. Your naturalization records will be part of our holdings. Someday your descendants will search your records to discover their history.
Here at the National Archives, history comes to life; we house the tangible reminders of where we have been, how far we have come, and what is possible for each and every American. Each record, large or small, is a representation of a greater story, many of which are still being told today in daily life. The National Archives tells everyone's story.