U.S. Courthouse and Delco Activity Center
June 29, 2017
About 1,200 new U.S. citizens from 80 different countries took part in a naturalization ceremony in Austin where President Fenves was asked to speak.
This is the speech he gave in their honor:
Thank you, Judge Yeakel for that kind introduction and for inviting me to take part in this ceremony, which recognizes the hard work, dedication and patriotism of the newest citizens of The United States of America.
I say newest citizens because, by definition, today is the first day that you will officially enjoy the rights, privileges and responsibilities of a U.S. citizen. But you’re not new here — you have been contributing to this nation for a very long time. Your American story did not start today. It started years ago — in small towns and cities from 98 countries. It started with dreams and those dreams were made real by sacrifice. Leaving one home, for a new one. Leaving a familiar place for a place unknown.
Making that kind of sacrifice takes a great deal of courage. A courage that immigrants have. A courage that you have.
I am the son of a Hungarian immigrant and the grandson of Eastern European immigrants. My wife Carmel is the granddaughter of immigrants from Mexico. To put it simply, my life, Carmel’s life, and the lives of our children and new grandchild in this country, would not have happened without the courage of immigrants.
My father and his family lived in a Hungarian province of Serbia during both World Wars. They were Jewish and because of their religion, the Nazis imprisoned them in concentration camps and subjected them to terrible acts of oppression and violence. They lost their freedom. They lost their homes, their jobs and many of their friends and family members died. But my father, his sister, his cousins and my grandfather survived. And after the war ended, my grandfather shared a dream with his remaining family, in the short time he had left — that one day, they would immigrate to the United States to live a better life. And my dad, Steven, made that dream come true.
After arriving in the U.S. at the age of 19, he served in the U.S. Army because it offered a faster path to citizenship and a college education. He started a family in Illinois. And because of him, I am here in Austin, Texas.
My family’s story is not a new one in this country. In fact, this country is built on millions of stories like ours — like yours. Everywhere we look, from Austin, to New York City, to Chicago, to Atlanta, to Los Angeles and in between, we see the work of immigrants. We see communities they’ve created and contributed to. We see buildings that they’ve built. We see businesses that they’ve started. We see faces, we see neighbors, we see friends. We see The United States of America reflected in the lives of those who chose to be a part of it. Who came here to contribute, like all of you.
You have been making an impact on this country for a long, long time. You have worked. You have gone to school. You have made our community better, richer, and stronger. This afternoon we celebrate you as American citizens, and we also celebrate all that you have meant to this nation since you arrived here. You have always made a difference. Your contributions have always mattered.
When I look into the audience today, I see all of you, and I know that even before Judge Yeakal makes it official, we are already connected as Americans. Our stories are entwined, because this country has always been built upon the courage of immigrants. That’s the legacy of America. That’s the history of America. That’s the future of America. And you are all a part of it.
I thank you for your sacrifice and for all of the work that you have put in to get here today. I congratulate you on a life-changing accomplishment to become U.S. citizens. And I stand here in awe of your courage.
Thank you and congratulations.