Remarks of Kevin Wolf

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration

Naturalization Ceremony

U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

Alexandria, Virginia

November 21, 2016

Thank you and good morning.  I have delivered many speeches, but none has given me as much pleasure as this one. 

You are men and women from more than a dozen countries.  Some are from cities and some are from small towns.  You don’t look alike.  You don’t worship the same way.  Your accents are different.   But here, today, you’ve raised your hand and sworn a sacred oath.  You are now united by a deep love for this country and an abiding faith in the American system of government – a system in which ultimate authority rests not with our political leaders, but with the people they represent.  A famous Supreme Court Justice put it best when he said "the only title in our democracy superior to that of President is the title of citizen."

The power of an American citizen is indeed great.  But with that power comes great responsibility.  For our democracy to work, you must participate in it.  Millions have fought and hundreds of thousands have died to give you that right.  We owe it to them, to ourselves, and to our children to stay vigorously and passionately engaged, and to vote.  To participate in choosing who will govern you. To help decide how your tax dollars will be spent.  To tell the world who best represents the values and dignity of the United States.

The tension in our country between welcoming or rejecting strangers is not new and is not just about immigration.  It’s about the meaning of America.  It’s about choosing what kind of country we want to be.  It’s about whether we will honor our founders’ creed -- that out of many, we are one.  So, you, today, have a right and a duty to participate in that decision. Today, your voice is as important as that of a U.S. citizen whose family has been here for centuries. Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

In declaring your allegiance to the United States of America, you are renouncing allegiance to all other countries.  This does not mean that you should forget where you came from or cut your ties with your past. Indeed, our differences are what make our nation’s diversity so valuable.  We are born of immigrants.  Immigration is at the core of our national character. It’s who we are and why we are.  It is why we are exceptional.

That you are naturalized gives your citizenship extra meaning. You are Americans by choice. You had to earn the right to be here today. I’m proud to be among the first to greet you as a fellow citizen.  And thank you for choosing us.  Congratulations.

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