Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks at naturalization ceremony at Faneuil Hall in Boston, MA on August 24, 2023.
Thank you very much, your honor. Good afternoon, my fellow Americans.
I will share with you that on May 9, 1973, when I was naturalized with my parents and my sister, we did not enjoy a ceremony in such a historic location – of such special quality. This is indeed a place of history, Faneuil Hall. You are now a part of that history, and you will add to that history through your actions as United States citizens.
I want to echo the Judge’s commendation of those in our armed forces, who have served before ever becoming United States citizens. Four are in active duty – one is a veteran – and we have a spouse of a military member naturalized today. For those who serve, we know all too well that our families serve with us, and to that spouse, I want to thank you for your service as well.
You know, my family fled the communist takeover of Cuba. My father was born in Cuba and lost the country of his birth. It was the second time in my mother’s life that she had fled a nation by reason of what was occurring in it – she was born in Romania, a fled during the Second World War. I grew up with a very strong and clear understanding of what it means to leave one’s country of origin, and move to a new country with a language that is different and where the customs are different.
My parents reacted very different to that phenomenon. My father gathered together the approach as he rebuilt his ability to support himself and his family from square one. His approach was: this is who I am, love me or not, take it or leave it. This is who I am today, this is who I will be tomorrow.
My mother had a very different approach, given her displacement twice, especially what she went through fleeing the Second World War – war-torn Europe. She lost a tremendous number of family members in the concentration camps, and she felt that life is a day-to-day adventure. Something beautiful can happen one day that changes one’s life majestically, and something very difficult can happen, something tragic could happen, that changes one’s life traumatically.
And therefore, we have an obligation, as an individual, as a human being, to make ourselves better today than we were yesterday, and to make ourselves better tomorrow than we are today. And in that regard, I am more my mother's son than my father's.
As that pertains to each one of us, as human beings, as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, whatever we may be, whomever we may be, it also pertains to the country – that we have an obligation to make the country better today than it was yesterday, and to make the country better tomorrow than it is today.
And our country today is better than it was yesterday, because of you. You – new United States citizens have chosen to become naturalized, chosen to go through the process to reach this day. And you have, as the judge so eloquently put it, some responsibilities, and many, many rights, and you also have an opportunity.
You have an opportunity to shape this country through what you do and your participation in its life, both civically and otherwise, whether it's on a community level, a local level, whether it's in your residence, or more broadly.
And we, in addition to congratulating you, want to thank you. We want to thank you for making the choice to become a United States citizen, to contribute to the well-being of our country, and its improvement and advancement, through the powers that you now have. We are all in this together, of equal stature, and hopefully one day of perfectly equal opportunity. Let that be something also that we work together to achieve.
Congratulations on this special achievement. Congratulations. And thank you very much.