November 27, 2013November 27, 2013
Isn’t this a great day?!
I love that I get to be with you today for this incredible, incredibly special event.
And I love that this ceremony falls on the day before Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving’s one of my favorite holidays. An entire day devoted to setting aside a blizzard of distractions, getting together with people we love, and giving thanks for the blessings in our lives.
Now, I’m a pretty blessed guy. I feel pretty fortunate most of the time.
And getting to be with you today and celebrate your birth as United States citizens verifies my good fortune.
But I imagine that tomorrow’s going to be a particularly special Thanksgiving for all of you. Because every day of my life, I’m thankful that I can call myself an American citizen.
And as of today, you’re citizens as well.
So I have no doubt that you’re as thankful as I am to be part of the fabric of this country. That’s a great feeling, a proud moment, and it’s my honor to share it with you.
But here’s one very important thing I want you to understand:
We’re just as thankful for you.
We’re thankful that you’ve become a part of our country.
We’re thankful for your faith in the United States, and for the powerful trust and hope that brought you here today.
We’re thankful for the experiences you’re bringing with you … for the expertise you’re going to bring to bear for all of our shared benefit.
We’re thankful for the mark you’ll leave, and the difference you’ll make. We are a stronger country, thanks to you.
And we’re thankful for your example. It’s something we need right now.
First of all, we need your uniqueness.
People talk about “diversity” a lot, and they should. But it isn’t just some concept that makes us feel good about ourselves.
The fact is that every single one of you is different from me. There are over 375 of you here today. You come from 63 different countries.
Every one of you has experienced things I haven’t experienced. You’re familiar with issues and challenges that I might not even know about–would have difficulty comprehending–and you have ideas about how to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities that haven’t ever occurred to me.
Those things, those experiences, those ideas that make us different are the very things that make this country strong.
Now, if you watch the news, read the media or listen to some political candidates, it’s easy to think that the things that make us different somehow make us weaker.
Sometimes it feels like the sole focus is on how I differ from that person, or she’s not like you or he’s not like the rest of us. We’re told that if you don’t look like him, talk like her, or think like me, then, somehow, we must oppose each other.
The cynics try to labels us. We’re told that if you don’t carry the same label as she does—for example, something as simple as you’re a Republican when she’s a Democrat, you’re a Democrat when he’s a Republican—if you don’t carry the same label, then you must oppose everything he says or does.
Well, you know it’s not that simple. The label doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about that individual. You understand that putting a label on someone doesn’t give us the right to not listen to each other or learn more about who we really are and what can be contributed.
We all know conflict sells newspapers. Fighting can be fun to watch. And it’s easy to find comfort in the familiar.
But make no mistake: the thing that made this country great – the single greatest asset we bring to the table – is our people and the unique perspective they bring to the problems and opportunities we face.
We have only one label that truly matters. We are “Citizens of the United States of America”.
So, as citizens, I hope you’ll fight efforts to divide us. I hope you’ll look for ways to come together with your fellow citizens to take a clear-eyed look at our challenges and help us come up with creative ways to meet them.
But your perspective isn’t the only thing your country needs from you …
We also need your optimism.
You’re demonstrating so much hope by taking this step. You’ve worked so hard to become a citizen of this wonderful country.
It’s not much of a stretch to say that you’re betting your lives on the future of the United States.
We need that confidence and faith. We need the optimism and hope you’re demonstrating simply by being here.
Again, if you read or watch the news, or when you look at some of the candidates that are running for the offices you’ll soon be voting on, it’s far too easy to think that there isn’t much to be happy about in the country today. It’s too easy to buy into the cheap drama that implies our great country is just hanging on or surviving day-to-day, or that everything’s going to collapse if certain folks don’t get exactly what they want, exactly when they want it.
Well, you know better. Your lives, the hard work you’ve done, your presence here today – all of it is powerful proof of how strong our country really is and how bright our future looks.
Your faith is powerful. It needs to be an example for a lot of folks who’ve been citizens of this great nation for a lot longer than you.
Our differences don’t have to divide us. And none of us should take for granted how important it is to simply BE an American and have faith in our fellow Americans.
In a few minutes, you’re going to raise your hand and swear a solemn oath.
You’ll renounce any allegiance to any other country. You’ll swear to support and defend our Constitution – the foundation of our nation – against all enemies. And you’ll promise to be there for our country if and when it ever needs you.
You’ll be American citizens. And you’ve come so far and worked so hard for that citizenship, I have no doubt that you’re thankful for it.
But you’ll also commit yourselves and your lives to this country. You’ll weave your life and your future into the fabric of this great nation.
You will make us stronger. I’m so grateful – your fellow Americans are so very, very thankful – for what you’re doing.
Congratulations, my fellow Americans. I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next.