May 28, 2010

New Americans















                                                  Phong Thanh Nguyen, Franklin Manuel Sans, and Kens Germain


We hosted a citizenship ceremony at the Museum yesterday, during which 127 new citizens were sworn in.  These newest Americans, coming from 47 different countries, took their oath of citizenship from Federal Judge, Robert Katzmann.  I had the distinct privilege and honor of welcoming them to the Museum and joining Judge Katzmann in shaking their hands and congratulating them on this most meaningful event.  I include below my welcoming remarks:
I cannot tell you how honored we are to serve as the venue for your citizenship ceremony this morning.  Frankly, I cannot think of a better place for you to spend your first hours as American citizens. This building stands right on the water’s edge and looks out across New York Harbor. In this building, you stand within sight of powerful symbols of American history. From this building you can see what generations of immigrants saw as their first glimpse of America – the welcoming figure of the Statue of Liberty and the distinctive structures of Ellis Island. You can look out to where the World Trade Center once stood. You are only a few blocks from where the Bill of Rights was ratified and where George Washington took the oath of office as our first President.

When you take your oath in a few minutes, you will take your place within a great and proud tradition that has made this the greatest land in the world -- a land that takes its strength from the diversity of its people. We are moved beyond words to be your host today and send you every good wish. At the conclusion of the ceremony this morning, we invite you to be our guests and tour the museum and especially our exhibition on the third floor – Voices of Liberty – which is about coming to America. It is, in every real sense, your story. Congratulations.
This was a most moving and inspiring event, and I will admit that I was unprepared for how emotional I would find it.  The 127 handshakes brought me in contact with such a rich and vibrant group of people -- young and old, well-dressed and dressed down, nervous and proud, from rich countries and poor. This was surely a uniquely American occurrence.

2 comments:

jmmarwell said...

very moving

JANET HENNESSEY said...

I AM FULL-BLOODED ITALIAN BUT FROM THE TIME I WAS A VERY SMALL I HAVE ALWAYS HAD VERY STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE. EIGHT YEARS AGO I WENT THROUGH A DEVASTATING DIVORCE, ESTRANGEMENT FROM MY FAMILY, THE LOSS OF MY HOME, JOB, EVERYTHING!! I WANTED TO GIVE UP. WHEN I DECIDED TO GO ON, I DECIDED TO FOLLOW MY PASSION. TWO YEARS AGO I FLEW TO BERLIN AND TOOK A 20 HR. TRAIN RIDE TO AUSCHWITZ. I ALSO MET A WOMAN WHERE I LIVE THAT HAS BECOME A GREAT FRIEND. SHE IS 82. SHE WAS BORN IN HOLLAND. SHE WAS FRIENDS WITH ANNE FRANK FOR 7 YEARS AND SURVIVED HERSELF FOR TWO YEARS AT BERGEN-BELSEN. IN SIX WEEKS I WILL BE IN N.Y. AND INTEND TO VISIT YOUR MUSEUM. FROM THERE, I AM GOING TO ISRAEL.

JANET