On December 15, 2015, which marked the 224th anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights, President Obama appeared during a naturalization ceremony being hosted by the United States National Archives in Washington, D.C. to deliver a speech that served as a rebuke to what the White House considered hateful talk against Muslims and immigrants by prominent political adversaries.
Surprised by Obama’s presence at the ceremony, 31 people from 25 different countries were in attendance, all sworn in as new United States citizens. During his speech, President Obama touched upon the fact that America’s origin in founded on immigration, explaining, “Unless you are Native American, all our families come from somewhere else.” He continued, “Two generations pass, and we do not remember where we came from, and some suggest there are Us and Them, not remembering that we were once one of Them.”
In his speech, Obama reminded the attendees that it is people from all over the world who had come to the United States and had built the country into what it is today, and that Syrian refugees should not be turned away from the United States, contrary to the actions of many US Republican Governors who have sworn to refuse Syrian refugees into their states. In response, Obama considered these actions as contradictory to American values.
In closing, President Obama welcomed the new citizens by stating, “Immigrants and refugees revitalized and renew America,” and encouraged them, “Now you have to help us write the next great chapter in America’s story.”
The video of President Obama’s remarks can be viewed here, and photos of the ceremony are available on the Department of Homeland Security website.