Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Independence Day Naturalization Ceremony
July 4, 2004
My fellow Americans. You’ve all worked hard to earn the right to hear those words, so I’d like to repeat them:
My fellow Americans.
Congratulations on becoming citizens of the great United States of America.
Today we celebrate and give proof of the American dream. The dream of a nation where all people are created equal, and all are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
This is the 15th year I’ve had the honor of attending these Fourth of July Naturalization Ceremonies. Eight years as Governor, three years as King County Executive and several years as a state legislator. Every year, my heart swells with pride and gratitude, because these ceremonies are very special to me. My mom was sworn in as a United States citizen at a ceremony just like this one, 50 years ago.
I have such great memories of my mother, learning English and studying the Declaration of Independence as she prepared for the citizenship exam. I was five years old, and I was also learning English, right alongside her. And the day Mom became a citizen, she became a bigger, more powerful person to me. I know she felt that way, too. I remember how hard she studied. I remember how thrilled she was to raise her right hand and be sworn in. And I remember how seriously she took her new role as a citizen—and still does today.
I can feel that same dedication and civic responsibility in this group of new American citizens.
My grandfather came to the U.S. from China as a teenager more than 100 years ago. He worked as a servant for a family in Olympia in exchange for English lessons. Today, I live in the Governor’s mansion. Just one mile away from the house where my grandfather swept floors, cooked, and washed dishes.
Our family jokes that it took our family more than 100 years to travel one mile. But what a journey it has been! A journey of hope, hard work, and faith in the American Dream.
Our family’s story is the same as the stories of millions of immigrant families. We have benefited from the American dream, like all of you. And we have helped shape it, just as all of you will.
More than most states, Washington is a state of immigrants. Immigrants played a very direct and important role in our state’s development. They were the hardworking backbone of prosperity and progress. They logged the forests, farmed the land, fished the waters, dug the mines and built the railroads.
Immigrants helped transform Washington state and other states into modern-day economic success stories.
And many immigrants, even before they became U.S. citizens, served in our armed forces and fought in world wars to keep America safe and free because they believed in the essential goodness, promise and destiny of America.
This country has made its mark on immigrants from around the world. And immigrants have made their mark on this great country. And that is how American progress is made. This country was built with the blood, sweat and tears of Native Americans and immigrants. And wave after wave of immigrants have renewed and enriched the American dream, and contributed to the cultural, spiritual and intellectual wealth of our country.
You are the newest wave of immigrants and our newest citizens. We are counting on you to make your mark on America. Because America needs you. America needs your active citizenship and your fresh perspectives on our toughest problems.
From this group of new Americans today—from 73 countries—will come new solutions, new art forms, new ideas, and new world visions. America needs your values and wisdom, forged from your experiences and culture.
You have powerful traditions of strong families, and strength in the face of hardship. Those qualities are vital in keeping our nation focused on service to others, respect for our elders and sacrifice for our children.
On behalf of the people of Washington State, I congratulate you on becoming citizens of the United States of America. I urge you to use the power now vested in you to help write the next chapter of America’s history of freedom, equality, hope and opportunity for all.
We are very proud of you.
God bless you, our newest Americans, and God bless America.