Friday, September 17, 2010

Constitution Day - Citizenship Day

Homestead National Monument of America is honored to host a United States Citizenship and Naturalization Ceremony on Constitution Day, September 17, 2010.The remarks below were shared with another group of new citizens by Park historian Blake Bell and are fitting to be shared again.

Nearly 234 years ago an assembly of individuals living on the Eastern shores of the North American continent gathered to shed their titles as subjects and declare their independence as free men. They believed in the radical notion that people were entitled to rights that could not be disputed nor deprived by any other man or government.
This declaration, however, was not limited to a select few who happened to be born of a certain nation, no, independence in this country was declared to the citizens of the world. The document was an open invitation to all who dreamed of liberty and freedom. Traditional boundaries could not prevent those seeking equality, because these natural rights cannot be contained by imaginary borders. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is something all people should be able to enjoy.

It is fitting that we gather today at Homestead National Monument of America for this event, because Abraham Lincoln, who so believed in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, extended another invitation to the citizens of the world seeking to participate in the American Dream when he signed the Homestead Act of 1862. All peoples regardless of gender, ethnicity, or nationality were invited to stake their claim and declare their independence.

But what is the American Dream? It is not something tangible; instead, it is a spirit that has burned forever in the minds of free thinking people, finally released upon the world on that momentous fourth day of July in 1776 and written down for posterity. This spirit can mean many things to many people but it is grounded in the fundamental idea of freedom! It is the force behind individuals seeking to actively participate in the direction of their political, economic, social, and personal lives. This spirit has manifested itself differently since becoming the governing force of our country 234 years. Every generation since the birth of this country has had individuals who sought to limit, confine, and designate who can and cannot be free, fortunately for us; you cannot limit, confine, or designate a spirit of this magnitude.

Waves of our ancestors have flowed into this country at different times and they have built a great nation around this spirit. Peak immigration years coincide with peaks in applications for land under the Homestead Act. This is not a statistical coincidence; it is evidence of the penetrating affects of the American Dream. The resulting effect can be attributed to the successes of our nation; standing as a clear testament to the resolve and determination these new citizens demonstrated.

Today, you take your place as citizens of the United States of America; you are taking the first steps to becoming part of the legacy that has made this nation great.

Abraham Lincoln believed there was only one criterion to become a citizen of the United States and that was believing in the moral sentiment that all men are created equal. He said, “That is the electric cord written in the Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, and it will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.” It was 152 years ago when Abraham Lincoln said those words, and today your actions give testimony to ALL that love of freedom still exists in the minds of individuals throughout the world!

On behalf of the National Park Service…. Welcome and Congratulations!!

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