President Barack Obama celebrated July 4 by hosting a naturalization ceremony at the White House for active duty military service members.
A total of 15 active duty service members from the four branches of the military received their citizenship at the White House ceremony, along with two veterans, one reservist and seven military spouses. Together, they represented 15 countries.
This is one of my favorite events to do and not just because we get to have barbecue and watch fireworks later, Obama began by saying. Its because each one of you has traveled a long journey to this moment.
The president noted that the service members represented countries like Jamaica, Germany, China and Nigeria. He then praised the service members for their willingness to sign up and serve in the U.S. military even when they werent yet American citizens.
You answered the call to fight and potentially to give your life for a country that you didnt fully belong to yet, Obama said. You understood what makes us American is not just circumstances of birth, or the names in our family tree. Its that timeless belief that from many we are one; that we are bound together by adherence to a set of beliefs and unalienable rights.
Oscar Gonzalez, who was born in Guatemala and joined the U.S. Marine Corp last year, was among those who took the oath of citizenship at the White House ceremony on Friday.
Becoming a citizen, he says, means becoming part of a society that strives and stands for good all around the worldjust being a part of that makes me complete, Obama said. Well Oscar, welcoming you as an American citizen makes our country a little more complete.
At the ceremony, Obama also recognized the contributions made by foreign-born members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have earned their American citizenship by serving in the military, as well as the contributions that immigrants from all walks of life have made to the U.S. throughout its history.
Toward the end of his speech, the president called for the need to pass commonsense immigration reform that makes it easier for the best and the brightest to come here and create jobs here and grow or economy here.
Chef Jose Andres Puerta, who became a U.S. citizen in November 2013, was also honored at the ceremony. Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas awarded him the the Outstanding American by Choice recognition by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for his community service.
Andres Puerta helps developing countries by building kitchens and cooking for the hungry through his organization called the World Central Kitchen. He has also worked alongside First Lady Michelle Obama for the Lets Move campaign to end childhood obesity, and he runs restaurants in California, Nevada, Florida, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
Among the guests who attended Fridays naturalization ceremony were military service members, their families and community leaders who continue to advocate for immigration reform.
Obama has hosted and participated in a number of naturalization ceremonies at the White House since taking office in 2009.
The President sees this important White House tradition as an opportunity to reiterate his commitment to an immigration policy that honors our rich history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws, a White House official said in a statement.