Welcome Remarks for Constitution Day Naturalization Ceremony
Rotunda, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
September 16, 2019
Good morning! Welcome to the Rotunda of the National Archives. First and foremost congratulations to our 31 new citizens! And thanks to the Capitol Hill Montessori School
at Logan for that wonderful recitation of the Preamble to the Constitution.
Thank you to Judge Tanya Chutkan for presiding over our ceremony 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 the 232nd anniversary of the ratification of the United States Constitution.
There is no better place to become an American citizen than here in this room. Behind me is the Constitution, which is the basis on which the United States Government is structured. In your naturalization oath of allegiance, you pledge to uphold this Constitution.
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 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, 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. My great-grandfather David Buckley arrived in Boston from County Cork, in 1883 aboard the Samaria. He petitioned to become a U.S. 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. 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.
Today, we have decided to do something a little different for the remarks portion of our ceremony. We have asked that two of you––our newly naturalized citizens––speak to us about what it feels like to become an American. Please welcome Ms. Rosemary Elsie Kibuuka Nyero and Mr. Juan Pablo Pitarque.