Friday, June 11, 2010

Homestead Naturalization Ceremony

Flag Day - June 14, 2009

Comments by
Ranger Merrith Baughman

Good Afternoon!

Welcome again to Homestead National Monument of America.

Of America…Of all 391 National Park Service sites across this country…from our East Coast’s Ellis Island, part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, to our West Coast’s Golden Gate Bridge, surrounded by Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and beyond…this is the only National Park Service site with “of America” as part of its name.

Why “of America” for this place in the middle of the Nation?

It is because this place commemorates one of the most important and radical laws ever passed by a government; a law not for the wealthy, not for the powerful but for the people. This law was the Homestead Act, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862…a law that made land ownership possible for millions of people; a law that literally broadened this country’s horizon for the people it encouraged to settle in the vast stretches of the American Midwest and West. For a small filing fee, a “Homesteader” could claim up to 160 acres of public domain, land owned by the Federal Government, in 30 states. By making the land they claimed their home and working the land for five years…

“Homesteaders” become land owners… free land for a free people.

At the time the Homestead Act was passed owning land was a dream of hundreds of thousands of people. Why? Because owning land rather than working someone else’s property meant a better life for their family and a better future for their children’s children. To own land was to claim the American Dream…that your destiny was not determined by the class into which you were born but that anyone willing to work hard could create their own prosperity.

The Homestead Act of 1862 made this American Dream a reality for millions.

And who were these “Homesteaders”?

The law read “That any person who is the head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a citizen of the United States, or who shall have filed his declaration of intention to become such.”

You see it is fitting that you are here today for your Naturalization Ceremony. Because in midst of the Civil War the U.S. Government saw the value in offering land not just to its citizens but the citizens of the World willing to come to the United States of America and become part of this country’s future. Just like those Homesteaders of our country’s past you are now part of our country’s future.

And…in just a few moments all of you taking the “Oath of Citizenship” will also be “of America.”

On behalf of the National Park Service let me say a heartfelt Congratulations!

Editor's Note:
Flag Day Naturalization Ceremony

Date: June 14, 2010 Time: 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Location: Education Center

Homestead National Monument of America is honored to host a United States Citizenship and Naturalization Ceremony on Flag Day, June 14, 2010. There will be over thirty new citizens sworn in at the ceremony. The ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. in the education center`s courtyard and the public is invited to attend.

Citizens from around the world will be represented. "Homestead National Monument of America is the perfect place to host this event. The Homestead Act of 1862 had a tremendous impact upon immigration, bringing millions of people to the United States to become citizens and pursue the American Dream through owning land," stated Superintendent Mark Engler. "These new citizens are doing the same thing."

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