Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
New York , New York
June 3, 2005 – 11:00 AM
It’s an honor to be with you today to help commemorate this important moment in your lives.
New York City is such a special place for this ceremony. For so many, the American story has begun right here. It did for generations of immigrants that landed on Ellis Island. And it still does today for countless people that come to our shores searching for their own chapter in the American epic.
It is a story of hope. Hard work. Faith. Community. Adversity. Sacrifice. And ultimately, triumph.
Many of us have lived this story. We write the plot lines in the daily struggles and personal triumphs of this great land. And while today marks a highlight in each of your chapters, this is in no way a conclusion. It’s a new beginning.
You now stand ready to open the cover of opportunity, as so many have done before you in this melting pot of the world community.
I know that each of you brings a personal story to the collective library of America. You may have arrived by plane, or by boat, or even on foot. You may have followed family, or forged ahead alone. No matter what history brought you to this point of achievement, your courage will mean a better life for you and your families. You are now another thread in the immigrant fabric of this Nation.
My grandparents were Mexican immigrants. I remember visiting them as a very young boy – there was no telephone in their house, no television, no running hot water. My parents, too, had very little formal education. They were migrant workers who never finished elementary school, but they worked hard to educate their children. They had very little, but they gave me a great gift. They instilled in me the confidence that, if given a chance, I too could live the American dream. They raised me to believe that a Mexican-American boy from a poor neighborhood in Texas could make his own contribution to the American story.
There hasn’t been a day since – especially every time I walk into the Oval Office or sit down with the nation’s law enforcement leaders – that I don’t wonder at the gift of opportunity that I have received.
But with that opportunity comes an equally important challenge. The privilege of American citizenship brings with it special responsibilities.
As citizens, we are all called to participate. This democracy depends and thrives on the actions and contributions of the people it serves.
As citizens we are also called upon to protect our Nation, our rights, and our freedoms. In his weekly radio address before Memorial Day, the President told the country about Rafael Peralta. He was an immigrant from Mexico that enlisted in the Marine Corps the day after he received his Green Card. Sergeant Peralta knew what was necessary to safeguard the America he loved for his family – and he made the ultimate sacrifice when he died protecting his fellow Marines in Fallujah.
Lastly, each of us has a special responsibility to take care of our families, our communities, and ourselves. We should not overburden the collective goodwill, but strive to give more than we take from this generous Nation. To help others achieve the same dreams we have.
America is the greatest country in the world. There is a reason millions of people risk their lives to fulfill the dream of coming here. As you accept these new privileges of citizenship, I hope you will treasure – as I do – the opportunities that abound in this land. But I also hope that you embrace the responsibilities we all share to preserve and extend that opportunity to all who seek the blessings of America.
May God bless you and your families, may he continue to guide your decisions, and may He continue to bless the United States of America.