South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
3:17 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: To Associate Director Daniel Renaud, to District Director Sarah Taylor, to all of you gathered here to celebrate this very special moment: It is Constitution Day in America, but this is your day — your first day as American citizens — and you have our congratulations. (Applause.)
And on behalf of the First Family, let me say, “Welcome to the White House and welcome to the American family.” (Applause.)
I can’t — I just don’t think any American can fail to be moved by a moment like this. And we’re deeply inspired by your example and the warmth and enthusiasm that we see on your faces and the faces of your loved ones that are gathered here.
Today, you’ve come to the end of, at least, a chapter on your journey. You’ve come from 26 countries across five continents. I’m also told that you come from about every walk of life. I’m looking forward to shaking each one of your hands.
And today, we have with us a small business owner, a human resources executive, a hairstylist, a student, a computer scientist, a bank teller — just to name a few. And you all have one thing in common: You aspired to be Americans. You stepped forward. You followed the law. You went through the process. And today, you are American citizens. Well done. (Applause.)
And now that the process is complete, you’ve joined the ranks of the freest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world. You have our congratulations.
And also, you have the congratulations of a man who is himself, as my family is, the product of immigration. A man I serve with every day and I have a lot in common. Some people think we’re different. But the truth of the matter is, our family stories are very similar. Our fathers both built small businesses as first-generation American families, but our grandfathers both immigrated to this country, just like you did.
And so on my behalf, on my family’s behalf, and on behalf of the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump, I offer you our congratulations. Well done. (Applause.)
Now, as Americans, you’ll have all the rights and privileges of citizenship. You’ll participate in many debates in American life, including debates over immigration in this country. But as you experience today, make no mistake about it, the United States of America is the most generous and welcoming system of immigration in the history of the world. And you proved that again today.
I’m proud to report that, last year alone, more than three quarters of a million people raised their right hand, just like you, and joined the American family.
But today is a special day not only for you, but, as has been mentioned several times, it’s also a special day because it was on this day — September 17th — 232 years ago that the Constitution of the United States of America was signed. It was an extraordinary moment not just in American history, it was an extraordinary moment in human history. And today, it’s your Constitution.
And so, I want to encourage you — I want to encourage each and every one of you to study it, to understand it. I was a teenager when I first began to study and understand the Constitution of the United States, and it has been a decades-long love affair with this document. I would encourage you to understand it better — the Constitution that you just swore an oath to support and defend. Study the genius of the American founding. Study the rights and liberties that are now yours. And live out your promise today to support and defend the Constitution as Americans.
There’s a famous story at the close of the Constitutional Convention. It perhaps happened on this very day, 232 years ago, that Benjamin Franklin was walking out and a little old lady stopped him on the street and asked him what kind of government they had formed. And Benjamin Franklin, history records, replied, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” (Laughter.)
And now I say — I say with great pride, 232 years on: Because of the sacrifices and determination of generations of Americans that you are now joining, we have kept it. We have kept the Republic. We have kept our Constitution. And that’s worth celebrating. (Applause.)
But my other admonition to you is: Always remember that you’re inheriting a legacy that’s been bought at a price. Our Founders risked their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor to found this nation. And every generation since, men and women have put on the uniform of the United States to ensure the continued success and vitality of this Republic. And so, as you join the American family, join with a heart filled with gratitude for those who have gone before for the sacrifices they’ve made, and gratitude to every man and women who wears the uniform of the United States today. (Applause.)
Freedom is not for the faint of heart. Freedom requires vigilance and sacrifice. And you’re now joining — you’re now joining a nation that cherishes individual liberty; creates opportunities for all; only asks that you work hard, step forward, respect our laws, and you can live your dreams.
And now that example and that story includes all of you. And it’s wonderful for me to able to welcome you personally. I heard of the story of a man who came to the United States from Bolivia, 21 years ago. I heard he met the love of his life here, raised a good family, built a career in banking. He actually retired from the Inter-American Development Bank. Jorge Salazar, welcome to America. (Applause.)
And I’m also told there’s an honorary Hoosier in the room. That’s what we call those of us from Indiana. She came here as an exchange student in high school from Germany, where she received some more Midwestern hospitality that we’re known for out my way. Lived up there near Lake Michigan. No wonder she wanted to come back. Now she’s a built a life and a career, and today Monica Irchenhausen is an American. Welcome. (Applause.) Great job.
I could go through all of your stories. I know they’d all be equally inspiring. But I just wanted to mention the two of them, just so that all of you know that the President and I all know that our nation grows because of the hard work and sacrifice of generations of Americans — but it’s individual Americans. Here in America, we believe in the individual. We believe in the ability of every individual to live out their dreams.
And that’s what I want to leave you with today — is just with a challenge not so much as your Vice President, but just as a fellow American. I want to leave you with a challenge. You’ve become citizens in the freest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world. And there is an old proverb that says, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” So be prepared to exercise your new prerogatives as citizens of the United States of America for good, in ways that will benefit your family, your community, your state, and your nation throughout your life. It’s now up to you to do your part to keep the Republic. So find the role you can play, and play it.
Find a way also to give back. And it doesn’t always have to be in large and vaunted and obvious ways. Raise a great family. Build a career. Build a business. Be a good neighbor. Be a schoolteacher. Volunteer your time to a local charity or a service club. Serve in the uniform of the United States or put on the uniform of law enforcement in this country. You might even run for elected office. (Laughter.)
But find a way to live out the promise that you’ve made today, the promise that you made not to — just to a document signed 232 years ago, but to your fellow Americans. Find it and live it out.
Live out your commitment to this country by creating more opportunity for your family and your fellow citizens. Live out the oath that you took today by contributing to the life of this nation for good. Use your freedom for good and America will be stronger for you being here.
So congratulations again. You all have made a remarkable journey to arrive at this moment, and it’s humbling for me to stand before you today. As the grandson of an Irish immigrant, I can’t help but fail to be moved by your courage, your tenacity, and your determination to join the American family. It can be a long journey, but you all were willing to make that journey. And we commend you for it.
And today, with this solemn and sacred oath, you’ve sworn to uphold the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and we expect nothing less. You’ve inherited a legacy of liberty that generations of Americans have paid for — some with their very lives. That legacy is now yours. And so live out that legacy.
And finally, have faith and dream big. In many ways, that’s what it means to be an American. Believe in the unlimited possibilities that now lie before you as Americans. Here in the land of free and the home of the brave, no dreams are too big.
So just go live them. Live them for your families, your children, and your children’s children. Because, here in America, anybody can be anybody.
Dream big. Work hard. The sky is the limit. And congratulations on joining the American family. God bless you all. (Applause.)
3:30 P.M. EDT