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It’s a Frightening Time to Become American: Naturalization Ceremony Remarks

November 11, 2019

John J. Grogan is a partner at Langer, Grogan & Diver, P.C. a Philadelphia law firm. He is also an adjunct lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. These remarks were given as part of a naturalization ceremony conducted by the United States District Court for the Eastern District on October 3, 2019. Mr. Grogan’s remarks reflect his personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of his firm or the Law School.

Remarks at Naturalization Ceremony
United States District Court for
The Eastern District of Pennsylvania
October 3, 2019

My fellow citizens! Welcome and congratulations!

I know that you are already aware of the benefits and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship. I know that you understand the trust that you have earned through the naturalization process. I know that you feel blessed to be here today.

And I know, too, that for many of you, today is the culmination of many, many years of struggle. Perhaps some of you know people who did not make it to this moment and all of you are thinking about the places you have left. And I know that for all those reasons today is a day of celebration but also a day of remembrance.

All of that is as it should be.

But today also means something very important to the country whose citizenry you join.

You are becoming Americans at a difficult even a frightening time.

America is not well. America is losing its sense of its history as a nation of immigrants.  America is turning its back on a world roiled and suffering from war, economic oppression, criminal violence and a badly abused, and now vengeful, climate.

I do not know how we have come to this place, or how we will get out of it. I only know that it fills me with a profound sadness and shame.

And so, I ask you to begin immediately to exercise your rights and to raise your voices to help change America.

You are so close to the reality of what becoming an American means; you are close to the suffering and struggle of migration, immigration, and the uprooting of lives; you know just how lucky anyone fortunate enough to call themselves an American and to bear a U.S. passport is; you know just how precious a nation of laws and not of persons, a nation of rights and the rule of law is; you know how truly rare freedom of speech, of worship and of political action are; you have so much to teach America at this particular moment. Do not be shy: speak out.

I ask you as new Americans to live persuasive lives: lives of love, engagement and optimism; lives steeped in the honorable traditions of your own cultures. Bring the wisdom you possess from your own traditions to your new lives as Americans. We, the larger United States, need your contribution on so many levels.

Do not become discouraged by our current politics.

With shared commitment to basic human decency, it can be better. You can help make it better and to the extent you are able to do that, you will have become truly great Americans, and this nation will be indebted to you as it has been to the generations of immigrants – those who came here willingly and those who did not – who preceded you.

Congratulations and may peace and prosperity be with you and yours.