Jul 2, 2021
Joe Biden Naturalization Ceremony Speech Transcript July 2
President Joe Biden hosted a naturalization ceremony at the White House on July 2, 2021 with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Read the transcript of the speech remarks here.
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Secretary Mayorkas: (02:41)
Congratulations. My fellow citizens of the United States, please be seated. My parents brought me to this country in 1960. We were political refugees, having fled the communist takeover of Cuba. It was the second time in my mother’s life that she was a refugee. In 1941, after losing her grandparents, her uncles, and an aunt, she and her parents escaped the Nazis and arrived in Cuba. From profound loss. My mother built her philosophy of personal strength, growth, and hope, and it was a straightforward one. Every day is a new life. The events of a day can transform us, who we are, and the paths we once charted. Thus, with each new day, we have the opportunity and the obligation to make ourselves better. Tomorrow we can and we must make ourselves better than we are today and each and every day. And our country gives us this opportunity.
Secretary Mayorkas: (04:24)
We can view each day for our country, the life of our country in the same way. Today, our nation is better than it was yesterday. It is better today in part because we have new citizens of it, each of you strengthened with the power and responsibilities that your American citizenship brings and all of us strengthened as a result. Our country is also better today because its identity and its fabric as a nation of immigrants is stronger because of you. And what of our tomorrow? How, as a country, will we be better tomorrow than we are today? What is possible for us? No one believes in and speaks more passionately of us as a country of possibilities than our president. I, a naturalized United States citizen like you, have the honor of a lifetime to serve in the president’s cabinet. And to introduce him to you now. Please join me in welcoming Joe Biden, the 46th president of the United States of America.
Joe Biden: (05:45)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Please, please by seated. Before I begin, any family of the people just got sworn in here today? If you are, stand up. Congratulations to you all as well. Congratulations. Congratulations. That’s a good day, isn’t it? All right. And, by the way, if you’re around on Sunday, you’ll see the fireworks, 4th of July, our Independence Day. Mr. Secretary, thank you for administering the oath. I know how meaningful this event is to you personally and professionally. And I thank you and the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Tracy. Where is Tracy? There you go, Tracy. Thank you very much. Appreciate it, for joining us in this service.
Joe Biden: (06:50)
Look, today’s special guest to all of you, it’s my honor to congratulate the 21 of you who earned the title of that our democracy is equal to being president is of the same consequence, citizen, citizen of the United States of America. You have each come to America from different circumstances and different regions and 16 different nationalities, but like previous generation of immigrants, there’s one trait you all share in common, courage. It takes courage to get up and leave everything you know and go to another place, no matter where it is. The only home you’ve ever known, the lives, the loved ones weren’t able to come for a new start in the United States of America.
Joe Biden: (07:42)
If I could hold a second and just point out that I’m often asked by world leaders that I’m with, particularly autocrats, “How can I define America?” I was with Xi Jinping on the Tibetan Plateau, and he asked me that when I traveled with him 17,000 miles. And it was a private meeting, just he and I and contemporary and his translator. They said, “Can you define America for me?” I said, “Yeah. I can in one word, one word: possibilities, possibilities.” That’s what America is built on. It’s one of the reasons why we’re viewed sometimes as being somewhat egotistical. We believe anything is possible in America. Anything is possible in America.
Joe Biden: (08:37)
I think about my own family’s journey here. At least two thirds of it came from… got on a a coffin ship in the Irish Sea back in 1849, having no idea whether they’d make it across the Atlantic to the states, then to the United States of America. But certain, if they did, they could do better. And they did. They did better, and they eventually built a life and raised a family in Scranton, Pennsylvania over generations. And here I stand on the shoulders of sacrifices of my great great-grandfather my great-grandfather, just all that they did because they believed. They believed like you believe, anything is possible.
Joe Biden: (09:26)
I just want to thank you all for choosing us. And I mean that sincerely. Thank you for choosing the United States of America. Believing that America is worthy of your aspirations, worthy of your dreams. Making this journey, you’ve done more than moved to a new place. I’ve often said that America is the only nation in the world founded on an idea. Every other nation in the world is founded on the base of either your geography, or ethnicity, or religion. You can define almost everyone else based on those characteristics. But you can’t define America. I defy you to tell me what constitutes an American. You can’t do it. We’re an incredibly diverse democracy.
Joe Biden: (10:20)
But there is one thing that does define us as a country. We were founded on an idea ,that we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Sounds corny to Americans, as we learn this in grade school and high school. We’ve never fully lived up to it, but we’ve never ever ever walked away from it. And every generation opens that aperture a little bit wider.
Joe Biden: (10:58)
Go back, as I said, since our nation’s founding, the quintessential idea in America has been nurtured and enriched and advanced by the contributions and sacrifices of so many people, almost all of whom were immigrants. Native Americans were, in fact, the only people who were here, only people who were here. And so, folks it’s dreams and immigrants like you that built America and continue to inject new energy, new vitality, new strength. We’ve seen that most clearly during this pandemic with immigrants as frontline workers, and as scientists, and researchers on the front lines of finding vaccines.
Joe Biden: (11:50)
Another defining moment of our nation in the past year was NASA landing Perseverance Rover on Mars, flying the Ingenuity Helicopter above its surface, as I talked to them, what is considered a sort of outer space Wright brothers moment. I spoke to the team about this historic mission while it was underway, which includes immigrants. The team was made up of immigrants who told me they grew up looking at the stars literally, not a joke. I’m not making this up. That’s what they told me in our conversation. Looking at stars believing that only America could take them there. Well, and we see it each and every single day.
Joe Biden: (12:40)
Folks, among you are six members of the United States military. I ask you all to please stand. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your service [inaudible 00:12:58]. Thank you. Folks, please sit. Please sit down.
Joe Biden: (13:14)
I was telling our new citizens in the other room before we came in that one of my most… I don’t know how to say it, fulfilling moments was, as vice-president, when I went over to Saddam Hussein’s God awful gaudy palace. And there were I think 167 men and women in uniform standing in that palace. As my wife, who I think I’m not sure, this may be the only First Lady or Second Lady to go into a war zone, an active war zone. She was with me and we both stood there as I was able to swear in every one of those military officers as U.S. citizens. I thought to myself, I thought to myself, what an incredible justification for all the things that Saddam didn’t believe in. And there were a number of there who had won silver stars. Like you, not citizens when you joined. Won silver stars, bronze stars, conspicuous service medals, purple hearts. And I got to swear them in, in the palace of a dictator.
Joe Biden: (14:37)
Also among this incredible group that’s here are healthcare workers and frontline workers who went above and beyond the call in the fight against COVID-19. They did so in hospitals, at clinics, at our National Institute of Health, the NIH, at restaurants and retailers, as educators, also in our schools. I want to thank you all for risking your lives to help others keep their country and our country going. And joining you today are your families. And I want you to know and understand that this is your day as well. I can only imagine the pride you must feel, pride in where you come from, and who you are, and the lives you built together as America, in America, and the communities that make you stronger, make us stronger. All of you represent how immigration has always been essential to America. We’re constantly renewing ourselves, constantly. And we come out of this pandemic and build an economy. We’re going to build it back better. If we’re going to do that, we need to fix our immigration system and fully tap the talent and dynamism in our nation.
Joe Biden: (15:59)
I’ve kept my commitment and sent an immigration reform bill to the United States Congress. It includes smart border management and security and a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people in America. With Vice President Harris’s leadership, we’re getting at the root causes of why people are migrating from our Southern border, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in the first place. The violence, the corruption, the gangs, the political instability, the hunger, the natural disasters. And it made it clear that we can work together on other critical issues as well, a pathway to citizenship for dreamers, the young people who have only known America as their home, a pathway for immigrants who are here on temporary protective status, TPS, who came from countries beset by manmade and natural made violence and disaster, and a pathway for farm workers who are here putting food on our tables, but are not citizens. Folks, in the competition for the 21st century, we need an immigration system that both reflects our values and upholds our laws. We can do both.
Joe Biden: (17:13)
I’ll close with this, no matter where you come from or the culture that has made us, the language we speak, or the faith we follow, one the most basic acts of respect is inviting others into your home. As we close out Immigration Heritage Month and start our nation’s 4th of July weekend, I can think of no better way to honor each occasion than by welcoming all of you into the White House, the people’s house, I might add, designed by an Irishman. For real. In a nation shaped by the immigrants heart, I look forward to standing with you as you embrace your new rights and responsibilities as American citizens and as generations have done before you. So, welcome, my fellow Americans.
Joe Biden: (18:15)
Now, before we take the pledge of allegiance together, I would love to invite one guest, Sandra Lindsay, please come up on stage. Now, Sandra immigrated to Queens, New York from Jamaica when she was 18 years old. And over the past, I don’t believe this, 30 years, she doesn’t look 30 years old. She’s pursued her dream of becoming a nurse to allow her to do what she wanted to do most, give back to her new country. She earned a bachelor’s degree, then a masters degree, then a doctorate degree, and her citizenship. And now, she’s director of nursing for critical care at a hospital on Long Island.
Joe Biden: (19:13)
And, during the height of the pandemic, she poured her heart and soul into the work to help patients fight for their lives and to keep her fellow nurses safe. With a grandson at home prematurely, she did what she had to do. She kept her distance and kept him safe. He is safe, but she lost an aunt and uncle through the virus. But, in her pain, she didn’t lose hope. When the time came, she was the first person in America to get fully vaccinated outside of clinical trials. She can now hug her grandson. She’s out there making sure her patients and folks in her community are getting vaccinated so they can get back to their lives and their loved ones. Sandra, if there are any angels in heaven, as I told you, having spent a lot of time in the ICU, they’re all nurses, male and female. Doctors let you live, nurses make you want to live, make you want to live for real. Sanders’ vaccination card and hospitals scrubs and the badge that she wore will be included in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History exhibit on COVID-19.
Joe Biden: (20:33)
And today, she’s receiving the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Outstanding American by Choice recognition, which recognizes the naturalized citizens who have made significant contributions to our country through civic participation, professional achievement, and responsible citizenship. Sandra, thank you for representing the very best of all of us. Thank you all in this room. Thank you again. This is America, happy 4th of July. May God bless you all and may God protect our troops. Thank you. Thank you.