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Celebrating Citizenship and the Bill of Rights with President Obama

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Every day across America, we welcome new U.S. citizens into our ranks in naturalization ceremonies. Some are small events with just the candidate for naturalization, and some are held in convention centers with thousands of participants. As the press secretary, I have attended many ceremonies. Whether the candidates take the Oath of Allegiance in a courthouse, in an office building or in a national park, each ceremony is special - for both the person beginning the next chapter of their life as a U.S. citizen, and for those participating in the ceremony.

On Dec. 15, I had the pleasure of attending a special naturalization ceremony hosted by the U.S. National Archives for 31 candidates from 25 countries to mark the 224th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas addressed the candidates and USCIS Director León Rodríguez recited the Pledge of Allegiance.  In addition to the senior leaders from DHS and USCIS, one thing made it even more special:  the keynote speaker was Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States.

In his remarks, the president said:
What a remarkable journey all of you have made. And as of today, your story is forever woven into the larger story of this nation. In the brief time that we have together, I want to share that story with you. Because even as you’ve put in the work required to become a citizen, you still have a demanding and rewarding task ahead of you - and that is the hard work of active citizenship. You have rights and you have responsibilities. And now you have to help us write the next great chapter in America’s story.

And that’s why today is not the final step in your journey. More than 60 years ago, at a ceremony like this one, Sen. John F. Kennedy said, "No form of government requires more of its citizens than does the American democracy." Our system of self-government depends on ordinary citizens doing the hard, frustrating but always essential work of citizenship - of being informed. Of understanding that the government isn’t some distant thing, but is you. Of speaking out when something is not right. Of helping fellow citizens when they need a hand. Of coming together to shape our country’s course.
You can view a video of the president’s entire remarks, or view photos of the event taken by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Archives.

On the same day the president spoke at this special naturalization ceremony, the White House Task Force on New Americans released its One Year Progress Report summarizing the progress that has been made to enhance federal efforts to more effectively integrate immigrants and refugees into local areas by building more welcoming communities.

I’m proud to be a part of that welcoming community, and I’m proud of the hard work done every day by my fellow USCIS employees. Our efforts help new citizens fulfill their American dream. 

Shin Inouye
USCIS Press Secretary