Welcome Remarks for Constitution Day Naturalization Ceremony
Good morning! Welcome to the Rotunda of the National Archives. First and foremost congratulations to our 30 new citizens! And thank you to the Capitol Hill Montessori School at Logan for that wonderful recitation of the Preamble to the Constitution.
It is a great to have the Honorable Elaine Duke, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, and James McCament, Acting Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, here with us today to celebrate your American citizenship. And special thanks to Chief Judge Beryl Howell for presiding this morning.
The National Archives is proud to host this naturalization ceremony each year with the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the U.S. District Courts for the District of Columbia.
There is no better place to become an American citizen than here in front of the Charters of Freedom. Behind me is the Constitution. In the oath of allegiance, you swore to support and defend this very document. It is the basis on which the U.S. 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. The Constitution gives the power to the people.
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.
And to my left is the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. These first 10 spell out the basic personal rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to every American. 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.
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, 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. And 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.
And now I would like to introduce
James McCament is acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Previously, he served as deputy associate director, Service Center Operations, overseeing the work of the five USCIS service centers in their processing of more than four million applications annually. He also served as the chief of the USCIS Office of Legislative Affairs and was a senior counselor to the director of USCIS and a special advisor to Department of Homeland Security Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff. A founding member of DHS, he served first in the Office of General Counsel. Director McCament received his Juris Doctor from the University of Notre Dame Law School and his bachelor’s degree from Mount Vernon Nazarene College. He is adjunct professor of law for the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University.
Please welcome Acting Director James McCament…
Now to introduce our keynote speaker today…
Elaine Duke is the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. She was previously sworn in as the seventh Deputy Secretary of DHS on April 10, 2017. An accomplished leader and a civil servant for most of her career, Acting Secretary Duke has served in the federal government for nearly three decades, most recently as the Under Secretary for Management at Department of Homeland Security, a position she held from 2008–2010. She received her B.S. in Business Management from New Hampshire College, now Southern New Hampshire University, and her M.B.A. from Chaminade [Shaman odd] University of Honolulu. Over the course of her federal government service, Acting Secretary Duke has received the Presidential Meritorious Rank Award, the DHS Secretary’s Medal, the TSA Silver Medal for Customer Service, the Department of the Army Commander’s Award for Public Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Distinguished Public Service Medal.
Please welcome Acting Secretary Elaine Duke…