Archivist Remarks for Constitution Day Naturalization Ceremony
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Rotunda, National Archives Building, Washington DC
Thank you Christ the King School from Toledo, Ohio, for that wonderful rendition of the Preamble!
I am David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. And welcome to the Rotunda of the National Archives.
First and foremost congratulations to our new citizens!
It is an honor to have you all here today. In my opinion, there is no more appropriate place to become an American citizen than in front of these most sacred documents. Behind me is the Constitution, which remains the basis on which our Federal Government is structured. The Preamble, which these students just recited, contains perhaps the most important words in any of our founding documents: "We, The People." Those three simple words capture the essence of our democracy.
Over to my right is the Declaration of Independence, the same piece of parchment that our Founding Fathers signed on a hot summer's day in 1776 in Philadelphia. They risked their lives, their families' lives, and all they owned by signing it. We have them to thank for the freedoms we enjoy today.
And to my left is the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. They spell out the basic personal rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to every American which you will exercise every day.
I hope you all get a chance to examine these three documents closely before you leave today. These documents 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, 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. In our research rooms across the country, people comb through these records to piece together details of their own family histories. Some day future generations will search our records to discover your 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.
And we will tell yours.
This year we have decided to do something a little different for the remarks portion of the ceremony. We decided that three of you––our newly naturalized citizens––will speak to us about what it feels like to become an American. Please welcome Ms. Nadiath Olawole Saibou, Geoffrey Robert Nicholas Holland, and Oxana Romanyuk.