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Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh C. Johnson at the World Refugee Day Naturalization Ceremony - As Delivered

Release Date: 
June 20, 2016

Central Park
New York City
June 20, 2016

Before administering the Oath, I have one or two things that I want to say on this occasions. First of all, congratulations to the candidates, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here.

Yesterday, on Father’s Day, I did something special that I have never done before:

At 0730 in the morning, my wife, daughter and sister-in-law took a boat ride to Liberty Island, and climbed the very tight and claustrophobic circular staircase to the crown of the Statue of Liberty.

As I stood there and caught my breath, it occurred to me that the Lady in the Harbor has been there for 130 years, and has never wavered as a symbol for us.

We must not waiver in our commitment to her.

What happened in Orlando eight days ago was an act of terror and an act of hate. We live in challenging times. And the full weight of the U.S. government – including our military, law enforcement, intelligence and homeland security communities – are dedicated to keeping the American people safe.

This is the number one obligation of the government to the people.

This Nation will not surrender to terrorism.

Nor will we surrender to the things that terrorism breeds – fear, prejudice and hatred.

Terrorism cannot prevail if we the people refuse to be terrorized.

Whether in times of calm or, especially, in times of anxiety, we must not discard or suspend the things that make us a great and unique Nation.

We are a Nation of immigrants – first, second, third, fourth generation and beyond.

On World Refugee Day, we remember that refugees, in particular, have added to the strength and fabric off our country – people like Madeline Albright, Albert Einstein, Eli Weisel, Nadia Comaneci or Luol Deng.

And taking in refugees during the current worldwide refugee crisis is simply the right thing to do. These men, women and children who flee persecution, terrorism and violence have lost their past. We will give them a future. It’s who we are as Americans. It is what we owe the Lady in the Harbor.

We can and we will continue to ensure our security, and welcome refugees to our country.

With us here now, on World Refugee Day are 19 individuals from 12 different countries who have been either refugees or asylees in this country. Fleeing torture, violence, and persecution, they came here for a better life. After years of preparation in this country, they are now ready to take the final step to become an American and assume all the rights and privileges of American citizenship.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are two things that I tell candidates at naturalization ceremonies. You’ve worked hard to get here. Not only that, you remind us of how special it is to be an American citizen, because you have worked so hard to join our ranks. You remind us of what it means to be a patriot. You remind us of what it means to be proud of our country. Many of the people in the audience like me I suspect, have heard naturalized U.S. citizens say “today I am proud to be an American” or even “today I am disappointed in my country.”

The other thing I’ll say to you is this: since you’ve been in this country, I am quite sure, people come up to you and they ask you when they look at the color of your skin, they hear your accent, they look at the texture of your hair, or what you’re wearing, and they ask: where are you from?

From this hour forward, when someone asks you that question, you can say “I am an American.”

Now I am about to administer this Oath. I am required by law to read the exact Oath required under our law in the exact way it was written. There are some words in here that you don’t use every single day. There are some words that I don’t use in here. My kids, for example, have never said that they would like to renounce and abjure me. They’ve referred to me as a lot of things but they’ve never referred to me as a potentate. But I must read this Oath as it is given to us. So ladies and gentlemen please stand.

Last Published Date: June 20, 2016
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