Responsibilities of citizenship for immigrants and our daughter

On Friday, September 7th, 2001, I was honored to be asked to participate in a naturalization ceremony for 46 new citizens of the United States. Published here are the remarks I made on that day.

Good afternoon. I'm honored to be here as you take your final step to become a citizen of the United States of America. My wife Celeste, who will soon give birth to another new American citizen, is here to celebrate this joyous occasion with you. And if you'll pardon the musings of a proud soon-to-be father, I would like to share some thoughts about citizenship inspired by this ceremony and the impending arrival of our first child.

Our daughter will be a citizen by birth, but you have made a choice to become an American. This choice may or may not have been easy for you, but I have the utmost respect for you for making that choice.

I don't know what compelled you to submit yourself to the naturalization process -- perhaps economic, political, social, or religious reasons. I have to think that you did it to better your life and the lives of your family. But you should know that the process does not stop here.

Along with the rights of citizenship come the responsibilities expected of you. Perhaps you are more aware of these responsibilities than I given your choice to become a citizen, but please allow me to enumerate some of them. Exercise your right to be heard on matters of concern to you. Vote in every election that you can. When asked to do so, eagerly perform your duty as a member of a jury. Watch what is happening around you, and form your own opinions. Practice your religion and respect the right of others to do the same. These are the values we will try to instill in our daughter; I hope you take them to heart, instill them in your family members, and inspire your fellow citizens to do the same.

But as you take this final, formal step of citizenship, be aware that becoming an American does not mean you have to leave your native culture behind. A part of American culture is the 1960's show Star Trek, which promoted the concept of IDIC: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. In that futuristic world, diverse cultures and ideas are respected with the realization that society is stronger because of them. While we cannot claim to have reached that ideal world, one can say that the American Dream is best realized when our diversity is celebrated and shared by the members of this country. My daughter will be the celebration of that diversity: the product of Irish, German, Polish, and English immigrants. By adding your own history and experiences to the fabric of our country, you make America stronger. In addition to all of the formal responsibilities asked of you as a new citizen, I charge you to share with your fellow citizens that which makes you unique.

Our past honored citizens fought hard to make this country what it is today. As they showed courage, we too must be prepared to show courage. As they endured pain, we too must be prepared to make sacrifices for the good of our nation. Like them, we too must strive for liberty and justice for all. As Americans, we are all filled with these hopes and dreams.

On behalf of my wife and our daughter soon to be born, and my parents, brother, and sister, Celeste's parents, two sisters and their families, and on behalf of the people of Hartford, the State of Connecticut, and the citizens of all 50 states, I congratulate you on your new role as citizens of the United States of America. Please use the power that is now vested in you to advance the cause of hope and opportunity and diversity. I invite you to be active participants in the next chapter of America's history of progress toward the goals of freedom and equality for all.