President Barack Obama marked the 236th birthday of the United States of America by welcoming 25 members of the military as they took the oath to become citizens.
“I could not be prouder to be among the first to greet you as ‘my fellow Americans,’” the president said at a naturalization ceremony at the White House. “It reminds us that we are a country that is bound together not simply by ethnicity or bloodlines, but by fidelity to a set of ideas.”
Members of the U.S. military from 17 countries, all currently on active duty, took their citizenship oath in the East Room. The government permits non-citizens to enlist in the U.S. armed forces and assists them in navigating the application process toward citizenship.
“All of you did something profound: you put on the uniform of a country that was not yet fully your own, in a time of war,” Obama said. “You displayed the values that we celebrate every Fourth of July: duty, responsibility and patriotism.”
Four of the new Americans are from the Philippines, three from Russia, two each from El Salvador, Colombia and Guatemala, and one each from Nigeria, Belize, Cape Verde Islands, Mexico, Bolivia, Honduras, Guinea, Cameroon, Ukraine, Palau, Ecuador and Ghana.
Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director, recited the list of home countries. Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, administered the oath of allegiance.
Obama said immigrants signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, help lay railroads and build cities, took up arms, pioneered new industries and helped fuel the Information Age, from Google to the iPhone.
“The story of immigrants in America isn’t a story of them; it’s a story of us,” he said. “It’s who we are. And now all of you get the write the next chapter.”
He used the occasion to press Congress again to overhaul U.S. immigration laws and to approve legislation, known as the Dream Act, that would give some children brought to the U.S. illegally a path toward legal status.
This evening, the president and his family planned to entertain military families on the South Lawn of the White House with a barbecue, a concert and a first-class view of the fireworks over the Washington Monument.
Tomorrow, the president was scheduled to begin a two-day re-election campaign bus tour in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
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