Thank you very much for that kind introduction, Mr. Scharfen.
Distinguished guests, and the families of our new citizens, thank you all for coming. It is a pleasure to be at Fort Bragg. And what an honor to be able to welcome into citizenship 41 men and women who have served and sacrificed for their country even before it officially was their country.
Mr. Scharfen has made it official – so it’s incumbent upon me to be brief and get out of the way of the celebrations that I know are to come.
The oath you have just sworn brings a deep sense of pride to you and to your families, and to your comrades-in-arms. In this group we have members of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps, including many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. Volunteers all, who have stepped forward at a difficult and dangerous time for freedom-loving people everywhere.
This group represents 26 different countries on five continents – which is another way of saying that that famous “melting pot” that we talk so much about still works. It is one of the true glories of our country that, when it comes to Americanness, you don’t have to be a descendant of the Founders or the colonists who came over on the Mayflower. What counts is whether you believe in America’s ideals, follow her laws, and pitch in for the common good. Abraham Lincoln said that immigrants to the United States can read the phrase “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence and “feel that . . . they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh,” of the men who [signed] that Declaration.”
But it is not just that you are as American as anyone, from this moment forward. It is not just that you’ve passed an exam on the United States government and its laws. Not just your knowledge and your beliefs but it is your actions – your willingness to put yourself in harm’s way for the rest of us – earn you the approval, and the sincere admiration, of all Americans, your fellow citizens.
Throughout U.S. history, new citizens in every walk of life have made America a better place. As soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, you give what is invaluable: your skills, your talent, and your courage. Since September 11, 2001, nearly 43,000 men and women have become citizens while wearing the uniform of the United States military. More than a hundred have fallen in defense of their new country. How fitting – and how just – the executive order signed by President Bush making all foreign-born, active duty members of the armed forces immediately eligible for U.S. citizenship.
This nation that welcomes you with warmth and with pride is very much in your debt, because you have shown your love for this country in the most honorable way possible. So on behalf of the Department of Defense, I thank you for defending the people of the United States – your people – and the “self-evident truths” which they hold so dear.
Thank you, and Mr. Scharfen and I will now hand out the certificates.