Welcome remarks for Bill of Rights Day Naturalization Ceremony
Rotunda, National Archives Building, Washington DC
December 15, 2016
Good morning! Welcome to the Rotunda of the National Archives. First and foremost congratulations to our 32 new citizens!
It is a great honor to have Mr. Khizr Khan here with us to celebrate your American citizenship. And thank you to Chief Judge Beryl Howell for presiding today.
The National Archives is proud to host this naturalization ceremony each year with the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the United States District Courts for the District of Columbia.
Today is a special day. It is the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. The original Bill of Rights is on display to my left. We have Founding Father James Madison to thank for this influential document. He introduced to Congress a list of amendments to the Constitution on June 8, 1789, which focused on rights-related amendments. Initially, there were 17 amendments, the Congress adopted 12 of them, and by December 15, 1791, three-fourths of the states had ratified 10 of them. These 10 amendments spell out the basic personal rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to every American. And this now includes you! They include freedom of speech, religion, and the press; the right to petition the government; the right to bear arms; and the right to due process of law and a speedy and fair trial. You will exercise these rights every day.
There is no better place to become an American citizen than here in front of the Charters of Freedom. Behind me is the Constitution, which is the basis on which the U.S. Government is structured. In your naturalization oath of allegiance, you pledge to uphold this Constitution. Over to my right is the Declaration of Independence, the parchment that our Founding Fathers signed in 1776 in Philadelphia setting us free from England. It took courage for them to sign it. They risked their lives, their families’ lives, and all they owned. We have them to thank for the freedoms we enjoy today.
These three 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, 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. We have over 13 billion pages of records here at the National Archives. 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 our records to discover your history.
Here at the National Archives, history comes to life through our records; 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. The National Archives tells everyone’s story.
Now I would like to introduce León Rodríguez, Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. León was sworn in as USCIS Director on July 9, 2014. Prior to his appointment, León served as the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, a position he held from 2011 to 2014. From 2010 to 2011, he served as Chief of Staff and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice. León is the son of immigrants who came from Cuba in 1961 and was raised speaking Spanish at home.
Please welcome Director León Rodriguez.
Thank you, Leon. Now I would like to introduce our keynote speaker for today…
Khizr Khan was born in Pakistan. He attended Punjab University and University Law School. He was licensed to practice law in 1974. After passing the bar, he moved to United Arab Emirates and later to the United States where he attended Harvard Law School for a Master of Laws degree, graduating in 1986. That same year, he became a U.S. citizen.
He is licensed to practice law in New York and Federal District Courts, Southern and Western Districts of New York. He is member of the American Bar Association and New York State Bar Association. He specializes in Commercial Civil Litigation Electronic Discovery and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Compliance. With Ghazala Khan, he is proud parent of three sons and has four grandchildren. He is a Gold Star father. His son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, died in 2004 while serving in Iraq.
Please welcome Mr. Khizr Khan.