Thomas Jefferson once described America as a “crusade against ignorance.” He believed that a nation could not be both ignorant and free. If that is true — and I believe it to be — then we must all seek knowledge, tolerance, and understanding. — Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York
They represented roughly 50 countries of origin and a wide range of immigration stories, but on July 18, the 200 people gathered at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston shared one unforgettable moment: they stood side by side, holding small American flags, and they became naturalized United States citizens.
Steven M. Rothstein, executive director of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, hosted the event, reminding the audience of JFK’s most famous phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” The Hon. M. Page Kelley, magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, presided over the naturalization ceremony while friends and family members watched as the petitioners swore the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.
Vartan Gregorian, the Iranian-born Armenian American president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, delivered the keynote, which was adapted and published by the Boston Globe. His full remarks can be read here and viewed via YouTube.
Watch excerpts from the keynote address below.
Gregorian was born to Armenian parents in Tabriz, Iran, and immigrated to California to attend Stanford University in 1956. At the JFK Library, he looked back to his own naturalization ceremony in Philadelphia, nearly 40 years ago. “I was full of joy, trepidation, and hope,” he recalled. “I remember the tears in my eyes as I swore that I would ‘support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.’”
Gregorian also urged the new citizens to help America do better. “As citizens of this country we can — and we must — participate in the work of our democracy. That means undertaking a myriad of small actions, most of which do not take place on Election Day. Read, learn, listen to others, help your neighbors, speak out against injustice, and vote! Study our nation’s glorious past as well as its trials, tribulations, and tragedies. By doing so, you fulfill your rights and obligations as citizens.”
Carnegie Corporation of New York supports immigrant integration and civic engagement through its portfolio of philanthropic grants dedicated to democracy. Read more here.