Citizenship ceremony at Salem
Salem Maritime National Historic Site celebrated Citizenship Day and Constitution Day on September 18, 2006 when 49 new U.S. citizens were sworn in on the steps of the Salem Custom House. After the new citizens were welcomed by Superintendent Patricia S. Trap, U. S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns spoke eloquently on the importance of our nation’s history and the duties and privileges of the citizens of a democracy. During his remarks, Judge Sterns particularly pointed out that the large gold eagle perched on the roof of the Custom House above the gathering symbolized the presence of the federal government in Salem during the early days of the republic.
Following the ceremony, the new citizens took a tour of the site’s replica vessel Friendship. The original Friendship, built in 1797, visited many of the new citizen’s homelands during the twelve international trading voyages it undertook in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Excerpts from Superintendent Patricia S. Trap’s welcome:
The National Park Service is charged to preserve the most valued resources of this country, for the benefit and enjoyment of us, and more importantly, future generations of Americans. These valued resources, these national treasures, include the history and stories of the people that built this country. . . . Here [at Salem Maritime] are preserved the wharves, buildings, and stories of our maritime heritage . . . We preserve the Narbonne House, belonging to craftsmen and the families of the men who sailed on ships like Friendship, building the new American economy after the Revolutionary War. In the Derby House, we tell the story of a family that in three generations rose from struggling middle-class immigrants to enormous wealth and success. At St. Joseph Hall you see the power of a community of people who fled poverty and oppression in nineteenth century Europe to find religious freedom, a political voice and economic opportunity on the shores of Salem Harbor. . . . I can’t think of a more fitting place to become a citizen of this great nation.
Excerpts from U. S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns’s remarks:
It is a great gift that is about to be bestowed on each of you. Our founding fathers envisioned a nation of citizens bound together not because we are all the same, but because we are united as one despite our differences. The creators of our constitution were all men; they were all white; they were all of European descent: and almost to a man they traced their forebears to the same precincts of the British Isles . . . [but] they had the imagination to look beyond their personal experiences, beyond their own origins, and beyond the historical and social context of their times. They envisioned a nation, defined not by blood, or race, or tribe, but by the fact of citizenship, a gift to be bestowed on those who were willing to enlist in a common civic purpose regardless of national origin, race, gender, or creed. Those of you who are about to become citizens are the fulfillment of this great dream.
One of the manifestations of freedom is the right each of us has to cherish and maintain the ways in which we are different. But we should also reflect on those things that unite us as a nation. . . . We are united by our fidelity to the constitution of the United States and to its enshrinement of the rule of law and respect for the liberties of others. Tolerance, the preeminence of law, and mutual respect are the essence of the American experience.
With citizenship comes rights and privileges, but also responsibilities. Perhaps the greatest of privileges is the right to vote, the right to participate in the selection of those that govern us, or by standing for public office the right to become one of those who govern. You also will be called to a high civic duty, that of serving as jurors in civil and criminal cases. As citizen jurors you will hold a far more elevated office than do I. Under our constitution, as a judge I have great authority over matters of law. But only you in your role as citizen jurors have the right to make binding factual decisions in the cases tried in our state and federal courts.
I am going to ask the clerk to administer the oath of citizenship. The words of the oath are a century and a half old. Some of its phrasing may sound archaic and old-fashioned to the modern ear. But its language would have been familiar to those who founded our republic. In swearing allegiance to its commands, you do honor not only to yourselves, but also to the architects of the nation which you are about to make your own
Last updated: February 26, 2015