Washington — President Obama, hosting a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members to kick off Independence Day festivities at the White House, called the welcoming of new citizens to the United States “the perfect way to celebrate America’s birthday.”
The ceremony, held the morning of July 4 in the East Room of the White House, brought together 25 candidates for naturalization and their families.
“I could not be prouder to be among the first to greet you as my fellow Americans,” Obama said to the service members after they pledged the oath of citizenship. “It brings me great joy and inspiration because it reminds us that we are a country that is bound together not simply by ethnicity or bloodlines, but by fidelity to a set of ideas.”
Obama said that since declaring independence in 1776, the United States has been proud to stand as a nation of immigrants.
“Our American journey, our success, would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe,” he said. “The story of immigrants in America isn’t a story of ‘them,’ it’s a story of ‘us’—it’s who we are.”
The president said that some of the service members had come to the United States as children, and others as adults. But all did something profound in choosing to serve the U.S. military.
“You put on the uniform of a country that was not yet fully your own,” he said, adding that for many, choosing to serve during a time of war meant deploying into harm’s way. “You displayed the values that we celebrate every Fourth of July — duty, responsibility and patriotism.”
Saluting the service members, Obama said he was honored to serve as their commander in chief.
Immigrants, Obama said, continue make America stronger, more prosperous and will enable the country to lead in the 21st century.
“These young men and women are testaments to that,” Obama said. Noting that no other nation welcomes so many new arrivals each year, he said the United States constantly renews itself with the hopes, drive, optimism and dynamism of each new generation of immigrants.
“You are all one of the reasons that America is exceptional,” he said. “You’re one of the reasons why, even after two centuries, America is always young, always looking to the future, always confident that our greatest days are still to come.”
The candidates for naturalization were presented by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano delivered the oath of allegiance to the service members.
Senior Obama administration officials spoke at naturalization ceremonies around the country July 4, including Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in New York, Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills and Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley in Massachusetts, Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz in Virginia, and White House Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu in Maryland.