About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Bill of Rights Day Naturalization Ceremony

Welcome Remarks for Bill of Rights Day Naturalization Ceremony
Rotunda, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
December 14, 2018

Good morning! And welcome to the Rotunda of the National Archives. First and foremost congratulations to our 31 new citizens! And thanks to the Hardy Middle School for that wonderful recitation of the Preamble to the Constitution.

It’s a great honor to have the Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg here with us today to celebrate your American citizenship. Thank you to Director L. Francis Cissna for joining us and to Chief Judge Beryl Howell for presiding over our ceremony this morning.

Today is the 227th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

Each year for the anniversary we host this naturalization ceremony with the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the United States District Courts for the District of Columbia.

There is no better place to become an American citizen than in front of these hallowed 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. 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. 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 227 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, 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. My great-grandfather David Buckley arrived in Boston from County Cork, in 1883 aboard the Samaria. He petitioned to become a US citizen in 1892 in Salem, Massachusetts.

Many Americans have stories like mine, and now you, our newly naturalized citizens, will have your own journey to share. We have over 15 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. And the National Archives tells everyone’s story. 

Now I would like to introduce L. Francis Cissna. He was sworn in as Director of USCIS in October 2017. He has served in various capacities within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Most recently, he served as the Director, Immigration Policy within the DHS Office of Policy. Before joining DHS, Mr. Cissna was a private immigration attorney in Richmond, Virginia. He also worked as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and then at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden. Mr. Cissna received his Juris Doctor from the Georgetown University Law Center. He received a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University and bachelor’s degrees in both physics and political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when I was a librarian there.



And now it is my pleasure to introduce Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg…

Justice Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York. She received her BA from Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School, and received her law degree from Columbia Law School. She became a professor at Rutgers Law School in 1963, where she taught some of the first women and law classes, and co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1973, she became the ACLU's general counsel, where she argued gender discrimination cases, six of which brought her before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter nominated her to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. And in 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The “Notorious RBG” is now a pop culture icon with legions of fans, and we are thrilled to have her with us here today.

As exciting as it to have RBG herself with us this morning, equally exciting is to welcome back Bryant W. Johnson from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia who just happens to be the person who called our ceremony to order, which he has done for many years. But he also happens to be the Justice’s personal trainer and has written a terrific book The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong and You Can Too.

Please welcome Justice Ginsburg…