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Director Brennan Delivers Keynote for Naturalization Ceremony at Mount Vernon

Director Brennan delivered the keynote remarks for a special Naturalization Ceremony at Mount Vernon on July 4, 2015. See the video below:

Remarks by Central Intelligence Agency Director John O. Brennan as prepared for delivery at Naturalization Ceremony at Mount Vernon

July 4, 2015

Good morning everyone. And congratulations on reaching this wonderful milestone. I am truly honored to be here and to share this special day with you.

Today we have the privilege of welcoming you into our American family. And I must say that it is entirely fitting that we are doing so on our Nation’s birthday. For in this group, we see a diversity of cultures and backgrounds that is worthy of America itself. You come from 45 countries, and you speak more than two dozen languages. You are teachers, bankers, and engineers; loan officers, journalists, and stay-at-home mothers.

And several of you are members of our armed forces, having put your lives on the line to protect the rights of America’s citizens, even before you fully enjoyed those rights yourselves. As one soldier who is with us today put it, “I had the opportunity to move to this country, and the only way I could give back was to serve.”

Your journeys to this moment have been long, fraught with hardship, and as varied as the countries you came from. Some of you settled here to escape civil strife, corrupt governments, and political repression. Others came in search of opportunity, and the right to express yourselves freely, without fear of retribution. Some of you arrived as adults, some as children, and at least one as a baby just over a year old.

But for all your differences, you are united by a common thread: a deep love for this country; and an abiding faith in the American system of government, one in which ultimate authority rests not with our political leaders, but with the people they represent.

And today, in swearing you in as brand-new Americans, we affirm a central tenet of our democracy: that what matters is not where you come from, or what you look like, or who your parents are. What matters is your commitment to the principles that define us as Americans—the principles of freedom and equality that have guided this Nation since our founding more than two centuries ago.

You all entered these beautiful grounds this morning as foreign nationals. You will leave as Americans. And there will never be an asterisk by your name saying that you were naturalized, or that you are anything less than full-fledged members of the American family.

As of today, you are just as American as your neighbors who were born here….just as American as those who trace their lineage to Jamestown or the Mayflower… just as American as those whose ancestors served at Normandy, at Gettysburg, or at Valley Forge.

If anything, the fact that you are naturalized gives your citizenship extra meaning. You are Americans by choice, not by accident of birth. You had to earn the right to be here today. And I know that in many cases your parents—not just you—had to sacrifice a great deal to make this day a reality.

It has always seemed to me that naturalized citizens have an added dimension to their patriotism. They tend to sing the national anthem with a little more heart. And they often view voting as a sacred duty, not an option.

I say this because I have seen it in my own family. My 95-year-old father arrived in this country in 1948—a twenty-eight year old blacksmith born and raised in Ireland.

When he arrived, he had little to rely on besides a solid work ethic, a good head on his shoulders, and dreams of a better life. He became a citizen at the first opportunity in 1953.

His is a familiar American story, probably not too different from your own, of an immigrant getting ahead through perseverance and hard work. Like you, my father is enormously grateful for all that this country has given him. Like you, he knows what it is like not to be American—and so citizenship means something extra special to him that is not always found in the native born.

The truth is, immigrants like my father and like all of you are essential to our Nation’s strength and vitality. And they always have been. Immigrants helped found this country, secure our independence, preserve our union, turn back fascism, and prevail in the Cold War.

Today, immigrants are safeguarding our freedoms overseas, and policing our streets right here at home. In every corner of America, immigrants are enriching our society, whether it is pioneering groundbreaking technologies, making vital contributions to the arts, developing businesses that are pillars of our economy, or educating our leaders of tomorrow.

One of the greatest strengths of this country is that the best and brightest from across the globe want to come here to go to school, to advance their careers, and to raise their children. As one of you put it: “Basic human nature yearns for justice, peace and prosperity. No nation on earth is perfect. However, the ideals and principles upon which these United States are founded are the closest to that perfect society.”

Indeed they are. Congratulations once again on this tremendous achievement. Thank you for your devotion to our great country. And best wishes to each and every one of you.

Posted: Jul 06, 2015 12:36 PM
Last Updated: Nov 10, 2015 10:57 AM