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A Special Naturalization Ceremony in Honor of the First President of the United States

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Posted by Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

This morning, I had the privilege of administering the Oath of Allegiance to 50 new U.S. citizens on the 281st birthday of our first president, George Washington. The ceremony took place at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens in Alexandria, Va. Today’s event was the high point of a week-long celebration of special ceremonies in recognition of Presidents’ Day. From Feb. 15-22, USCIS welcomed more than 19,000 new citizens in 135 ceremonies across the country.

New citizens taking The Oath at Mt. Vernon
New citizens taking The Oath at Mt. Vernon

Felicia Escobar, Senior Policy Advisor for Immigration at the White House Domestic Policy Council, joined me and led the new citizens in reciting the pledge of allegiance. Ms. Escobar quoted President Washington in the beginning of her remarks, saying: “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.” More than 200 years later, these words ring true.

During the ceremony, I also had the honor of presenting the Outstanding American by Choice recognition to Dr. Tsehaye Teferra, founder and President of the Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc. Dr. Tsehaye’s organization serves a growing and diverse immigrant community in Northern Virginia and assists other refugees and immigrants in cities such as Denver, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. At the ceremony, he stated that together—as citizens—we will continue to build a stronger America.

Dr. Tsehaye is recognized as an Outstanding American by Choice
Dr. Tsehaye is recognized as an Outstanding American by Choice

Addressing the new citizens, Dr. Tsehaye said, “Like you, I chose to become an American citizen because this country gives people the opportunity to explore their individuality, hone their talents, and use their skills effectively and meaningfully.”

While all of our 44 presidents came from different backgrounds and held different political views, each recognized that we could not have succeeded as a nation if not for the contributions of generations of immigrants whose courage and tireless efforts helped make this nation what it is today.