Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at Special Naturalization Ceremony

WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today provided congratulatory remarks to America’s newest citizens during a special naturalization ceremony at the World War II Memorial.  United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Washington Field Office Director Kimberly Zanotti administered the Oath of Allegiance, and Superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks Jeffrey Reinbold delivered welcoming remarks.

Ambassador Tai’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Thank you, Ms. Zanotti, for that introduction.  It’s a pleasure to be here for this important occasion.

Congratulations, everyone!  My name is Katherine Tai, and I am the United States Trade Representative.  An easier way to say that is that I am President Biden’s chief trade negotiator and advisor on international trade issues.

I know how important today is for all of you.  I know because my parents were also naturalized, in 1979.

My parents were born in mainland China and grew up in Taiwan.  In the 1960s, President Kennedy’s immigration reforms allowed them to come to America as graduate students and ultimately serve the country they would call home.  

My dad worked at Walter Reed helping advance treatments for American GIs fighting in Vietnam.  My mom still works at the National Institutes of Health, developing treatments for people with opioid addiction.

So, from an early age, they showed me what it means to be an American—to serve and to make sacrifices for the common good.

If you look at the dollar bill or a quarter, you’ll see a Latin phrase—“e pluribus unum.”  It means “out of many, one.”

That’s what America is about.

Take a look around you.  We have people here from so many communities and backgrounds.  

That’s because no matter what you look like, where you’re from, what you eat, and what God you pray to, we are united in our shared belief that, in America, “We, the People” are stronger because we are different.

Our diversity is not just one aspect of who we are as a nation—it is the core of our identity.  We are a community of communities.  

When we began this ceremony, you stood as individuals representing countries from all over the world.  You are now seated before me as American citizens.  

This is what makes our nation strong and unique.  

We are not perfect, and we know that there is a lot of work to do to fight for justice and to build a freer and fairer for all our people.

But there is hope, because the genius of America is that it was not born perfect.  It was meant to be perfected over time, with each successive generation doing their part to make it a more perfect Union.

All of you, as brand-new Americans, will now play a part in shaping our country for the better.

Over generations, immigrants built this country.

They laid the foundations of our roads and railways.  They built our schools, harvested crops, and created businesses.  

The engine of our greatness is that we have opened our doors to the world.  To come and put down roots.  To study, to provide care, to clean, to invent, to cook, and to cure.

There isn’t a single city or town in America that wasn’t molded or impacted by immigrants.

As an American, you will have new opportunities to participate in our democracy—to vote, to serve on a jury, perhaps to work for the Federal government like me and my parents. 

I hope this day inspires you to take full advantage of your citizenship, and the rights and responsibilities that come along with it.  

As you build your lives here, I encourage you to be active citizens, to give back to your community and your country. 

Volunteer in your neighborhood.  Serve in our military.  Run for public office.  Cast your vote on Election Day, not just for president but for school board and city council.

Because that’s what makes us great—each of us pushing and pulling for one another, having each other’s backs, being fully immersed in this country we love.

Today’s ceremony is a special one, because we are also celebrating National Military Appreciation Month.  We have ten active-duty members of the Armed Forces with us today, and I want to acknowledge three of them who embody this type of service.

Wani Saw, from Thailand.  He is an active duty Marine.  He and his family left Thailand in search of better opportunities here, and he joined the Marines to serve the country he loves.

Jancy Antonion Hernandez Loz, from Honduras.  She is also an active duty Marine, and to her, becoming a U.S. citizen means that she can give back to the country that has given her so much.

And Armand Tchudjo, from Cameroon, a reservist in the Army.  He has a Master’s degree in economics and business administration, and he joined the Army to fight for his country if need be.

You have already given so much to our country, and I am proud to stand with you here today.  Thank you for your service.

As we gather at the World War II memorial, we are reminded of the blood, sweat, and tears that countless men and women shed to defend our values and our people.  

All of us are indebted to their sacrifice, and we are called to carry on their legacy—to provide opportunities for generations of immigrants that come after us.

Your hard work and determination have led you this far, but don’t stop here.  

Let us come together to write the next chapter of the American story, one of hope, strength, and resilience—as fellow Americans.

I congratulate each and every one of you on this milestone, and I am pleased to be here to celebrate with you.

Once again, congratulations!