by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at a Military
I want to thank Director Gonzalez for inviting me to host this
meaningful ceremony and for his kind of words of introduction.
I want to thank General Schoomaker for hosting this as well
as all the members of the staff of Walter Reed for the work
they do every day, day in and day out, to serve our warriors
who come back from the battlefield. And, I want to thank
the four service members, three soldiers and one Marine that have
become the new American citizens today.
is probably one of the most enjoyable duties that I’ve
had the opportunity to perform in any public capacity. And,
it certainly gives all of us quite a bit to think about when
we think about the meaning of citizenship and what these young
men and women have gone through to become American citizens.
Eduardo and Angel were born in Mexico, Dwishnicka was born
in Haiti, and Carlos was born in Portugal. In many ways, they
reflect the face of America. As the Latin saying says, e pluribus
unum; out of the many, one. And, the genius of this country,
as reflected in today’s ceremony, is that we are able
to assemble from around the world those who are the most noble,
the most courageous and the most worthwhile, bring them, with
their very diverse backgrounds, into the single unity of American
citizenship where they each contribute something unique to
making this country what it is.
In this case,
each of our new citizens not only came to America, but actually
came and joined our armed forces. Each of them went to Iraq.
And today, each of them now have the opportunity to be citizens
of the country they have served so well. For family members
who are here, I know this is a wonderful day; you must be very
proud, and I offer you my congratulations and my best wishes
for what I hope will be a raucous celebration when the ceremony
it is a ceremony like this that causes us to think about what
a great privilege it is to be an American. And, it might be
said that those who are born here probably appreciate less
than those who come voluntarily how meaningful it is to be
an American. But, one thing I can tell you is that people around
the world struggle to become Americans, and I think the four
here who have become citizens today reflect some of the reasons
why that struggle is a benefit to this country.
has always been a beacon of freedom, opportunity and hope for
a better life. And by any measure, America has brought untold
blessings to people who have come here and made this country
their home. But it’s also true that immigrants have been
a blessing to America. From the beginning, proud immigrants
have blessed our economy, enriched our culture and strengthened
our communities. But, of all those who come from around the
world to be citizens, you four who have become citizens today
have done something even more.
In the oath
you took today, you swore to do what you already have done,
which is to put on the uniform of our country’s armed
forces and serve to defend her freedom. Before you became citizens
you stepped forward to defend the country that you love, and
before you took your oath today you were fulfilling it every
single day on the battlefields of Iraq. You put duty, you put
honor, and you put country ahead of yourselves. You put your
life, and your safety on the line for millions of Americans
that you’ve never even met, and you’ve proven yourself
willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for this country.
of the President, and a grateful nation, once again, I thank
you deeply for your sacrifice. I also wanted to note with gratitude
that the President has helped make this wonderful day possible.
Some of you may know that less than a year after September
the 11th, the President issued an executive order rewarding
service such as that rendered here with an expedited route
I want to address those who are working here at Walter Reed.
Thank you for continuing your strong commitment to the important
work that you do, notwithstanding some of the current difficulties.
Thank you for the way in which you commit yourself to the honorable
tradition of caring for brave heroes like those that we’ve
sworn in today and everybody else who is in this compound.
These are all men and women who have paid a price in the course
of serving their country.
has rightly stated that we have a moral obligation to provide
the best possible care and treatment to every single serviceperson
who walks through these doors, and I am confident that whatever
the challenges this hospital has faced in the past, those challenges
will be surmounted and that when the dust settles, Walter Reed
will emerge a stronger, better place to serve courageous men
and women like those being honored here today.
One of the
reasons I am confident in that is because I know it’s
part of our national character as Americans to view problems
as not only challenges, but as opportunities, opportunities
to do better and make our world better. That’s why after
we were attacked on September 11th we resolved not only to
defend ourselves from further attacks and to defeat our enemies,
but to take up leadership in the fight for the right of others
to enjoy the very same freedoms that we do ourselves.
more than five years after September 11th as we stand on the
lines in the war against terror, Americans like these continue
to defend our ideals and to ensure that freedom’s blessings
extend around the world for generations to come. So, for those
who have been sworn in as citizens today, we’re honored
that you’ve joined us in carrying out this sacred mission,
we’re grateful for your service, moved by your sacrifice,
inspired by your courage, and humbled by your devotion to your
you have become citizens of that home, citizens with equal
and equal rights with everybody else who is an American citizen.
one of the things that might be said about this country is that we’re
all guests here, we’re all joined here, and we’re all on equal
footing. There’s nobody here who is the landlord. We are all common
owners of this country, and you have now assumed part of that common ownership
and part of that stake in this great land.
So, on behalf
of President Bush, let me again congratulate you. Let me again
thank you, once more, on behalf of the country. God bless you.
God bless all of your family members and loved ones, and God