Every Fourth of July, historic sites like The New York Public Library, the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, and the USS Midway in San Diego play host to thousands of newly naturalized citizens. A judge presides over the swearing of the Oath of Allegiance. And on our nation’s birthday, new Americans are born.
This Fourth of July, which marks the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, more than 7,000 immigrants will become American citizens during nearly 100 naturalization ceremonies across the country, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). New citizens, along with their friends and families, will be sharing their stories and posting photos from their ceremonies using the hashtag #newUScitizen. One of these special ceremonies takes place today at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s storied home in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Monticello was one of the first places to institute the Independence Day naturalization ceremony. It’s a sacred spot, home to the man who enshrined the virtues of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Monticello’s West Portico Steps have served as the special setting for over 3,600 naturalizations since 1963. Through the years, four sitting presidents have stopped by to wish their best to these new Americans. It’s always been an occasion for lofty words: These are immigrants joining us on our national project, to work and vote and share in our freedoms.
This year, Monticello plans to naturalize 76 new citizens from 40 different countries and initiate them to the blessings and responsibilities of citizenship.
Monticello’s governing body has called on Dr. Larry J. Sabato, Rhodes scholar and the founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, to give this year’s keynote address. “[His] work perpetuates Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a self-governing nation,” Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, explained in a press release. “Jefferson wrote to Madison in 1787 that ‘the people…are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.’ Dr. Sabato’s message about the value of politics and the importance of civic engagement promises to be particularly meaningful for our newest citizens.”
Addressing this crop of new Americans, Sabato explained, “the extraordinary thing about America is that each citizen is given the tools and the opportunity to make a difference and to leave a legacy that will continue once our brief moment on earth has passed.”
We rely on immigrants to invigorate our economy and our politics. “We’re counting on you,” Sabato said, “We know you’ll come through, just as generations of new citizens have for the entire existence of America—America the Beautiful, now and forever, your country.”
“You’re beginning what we hope will be the best chapters of all, the ones penned as an American citizen,” he continued. “Help us to live up to American ideals. Make us better.”