Thank you, Secretary Chao. Thank you for those gracious words, but for your inspiring personal story and for sharing this moment with us today.
To Senator Lankford, to Congressman Turner, to Congressman Meadows, to our Acting Director Cuccinelli, to archivist David Ferriero, to members of the National Archives Board: It is deeply humbling for Karen and me to be with you today, here in this place, on the hallowed ground of our National Archives to celebrate the Fourth of July with 44 new Americans. (Applause.) Congratulations to you all.
It is amazing to be standing here today before all of you and to be able to extend the welcome of the American people to your new place in this nation as citizens. And it's remarkable to think of the journey you've travelled on. You come from 26 different countries. We heard them called in the roll -- Bolivia and Morocco, Vietnam, Mexico, and Afghanistan.
I'm also told you come from just about every walk of life. There's an electrician among you. A banker. There's a college counselor, an IT engineer, and even an Uber driver. (Laughter.) But all of you aspired to be Americans. You stepped forward. You followed the law. You went through the process to immigrate into this great nation. And as of today, the men and women gathered before me today who just raised their right hand have now joined the ranks of the freest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world. (Applause.)
But the 44 of you and your families are hardly alone. Last year, more than three-quarters of a million people raised their right hand and swore the very same oath that you just took. And your example and theirs gives evidence that then, as now, and throughout our nation's history, America has the most generous system of legal immigration in the history of the world. And we are proud to have you join our ranks. (Applause.)
Now, as fellow Americans, you'll be a part of many debates in the life of this nation, including debates over immigration in America. And we all know that our current system of immigration faces real challenges. But to those of you who step forward today, who made the sacrifices and went through the process, let me say, on behalf of President Donald Trump and on behalf of the American people: Welcome to the American family. (Applause.)
But like those who have spoken before, it is humbling to stand before you. But it's almost indescribable for this American to be flanked by these extraordinary documents. Because here, we are surrounded by the three great founding documents of this great nation: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights.
That very Constitution that you just swore an oath to uphold and defend is behind me as we speak. And it was forged in the fires of the American founding. It is remarkable to think of the courage and tenacity of those who crafted these documents. And on a day like today, as we look at their images on the walls above us, I think it's important that we remember their story.
When we study history, we often forget that those who were living it didn't know what was on the next page. And they risked all. The signers of the Declaration of Independence, 56 delegates to the Continental Congress that adopted that Declaration of Independence 243 years ago today pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
And it was not just words. It's remarkable to think that when those 56 delegates signed that Declaration of Independence, the largest city in America then had a population of 40,000 people, and that was the City of Philadelphia. And at the very moment that those delegates were asked to sign their names to that document, an armada of British soldiers, 32,000 in strength, was sailing into New York Harbor with one order -- and that was to put down the rebellion in the American colonies.
In fact, history records that anyone who was to sign a Declaration of Independence, by order of the King, was to be hanged by the neck until they were dead. They risked all for us and for you to be able to have this moment.
By the end of the Revolutionary War, of the 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, five were captured by the British Army during war; many lost family members; and many were left destitute and impoverished, even though they came from some of the most prosperous families in the colonies before the war.
I mean, the very idea that the Continental Army, which was led by a man who had never commanded more than 2,000 troops would be able to defeat the army of the most powerful empire on the planet was unthinkable. In fact, when the British did finally surrender to George Washington at Yorktown, after six long years of war, all the military band could think to play was a song entitled, "The World Turned Upside Down," for surely it was.
In the early years, they forged freedom. First, with an Articles of Confederation, and then with this extraordinary Constitution and Bill of Rights.
There is that famed story that, at the close of the Constitutional Convention, when Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a woman approached him and asked these words, "Well, Doctor, what have we got -- a republic or a monarchy?" And Benjamin Franklin replied, echoing into history, "A republic, madam, if you can keep it." And so we have.
With the adoption of the Bill of Rights and in all of the many years since, we've kept it. And now it's yours. You're inheriting a legacy purchased at a high price. Men and women through the generations have risked all, have laid down their lives, to ensure the continued success and vitality of the document -- or the government forged in these documents.
And now, in those stirring words of the oath you took, now it's also yours to support and uphold and defend, if necessary. It's a remarkable thing.
To the new Americans gathered here, I submit that, as you continue to study the history of your new home, you will learn that -- over more than two centuries of the American experiment, that freedom is not for the faint of heart. It requires vigilance and sacrifice and sacrifice on behalf of the citizens to maintain it. And as you, you yourselves, have demonstrated even up to this moment, as we cherish our freedom, our freedom continues to inspire the world: millions, over the generations -- now who you've joined -- who've come to these shores and nations around the world who aspire to be like us.
Well, you've heard stories from this podium about immigrant families from the nation's Archivist, from the Secretary. But I'll tell you one more story.
It was on April 11th, 1923, that an Irish immigrant named Richard Michael Cawley stepped off the boat onto Ellis Island In New York City. He immigrated to this country. He became an American citizen. He took the train to New York City. He drove a bus for 40 years and raised a wonderful family.
The story of his family was a story of -- has a legend that his mother walked him across the street from their modest home in Ireland, and walked him up the hill, and pointed in the direction of the Ox Mountains and to the West, and said, "You have to go to America because there's a future there for you."
Well, I stand before you today as that future. That man was my grandfather and I'm his namesake. He raised a precocious redhead up there in Chicago, and she married a fast-talking salesman who built a gas station business down in a small town in Indiana. And that's where I and my three brothers and two sisters showed up.
On the day that I raised my right hand, just a few years ago, and took part of the oath you just took to serve in the role in which I'm privileged to serve right now, I had many things in my heart and mind that day. But my mind kept going back to my grandfather, to his courage to be able to leave everything behind, everything he knew -- family, and hearth, and home -- and come here because it was a future, because he believed in the American Dream.
And I was up on that platform, just down the street by the Capitol Building, in January of 2017, thinking that Richard Michael Cawley and his courage is the only reason that Michael Richard Pence became the 48th Vice President of the United States. (Applause.)
I share that with you just to encourage you because we all know the sacrifices that you've made -- not just to become citizens, but to join us. And we commend you for it.
But now, as your Vice President and as a fellow American, let me at least leave you with this charge: You have become citizens in the freest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world. But as the Good Book says, "To whom much is given, much will be required." So be prepared to exercise your prerogatives as free men and women, as citizens of the United States of America, in a way that will benefit your family, your community, your state, and your nation throughout your life.
Find a way to give back for all that you've been given. Raise a great family. Build a business. Be a good neighbor. Be a teacher. Be a public servant. Put on the uniform of law enforcement. Volunteer at a local service club. Be a schoolteacher. Or even serve in elected office.
Live out your commitment to this country by creating more opportunity for your family and your fellow citizens. Live out the oath that you took today by contributing to the life of this nation, and use your newfound citizenship for good -- for your good, and for the good of the United States of America. In so doing, I promise you, you will have paid back all that's been bequeathed to you if you live a great American life.
You've made a remarkable journey to arrive at this moment, and I know that you and your loved ones will forever cherish this day. So will we. Today, with this solemn and sacred oath, taken on these hallowed grounds, you've sworn to exercise and uphold the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. You've inherited a legacy of liberty that generations of Americans have paid for with their lives. And this legacy is now yours. Serve it well.
And remember, finally: Dream big. There are no dreams too big in the land of free and the home of the brave. And you are now citizens of that great nation. So live your dreams for the sake of yourselves, your families, your children, and your children's children. Go prosper because, in America, the sky is the limit.
So once again, allow me and my wife to offer our heartfelt congratulations and welcome to 44 new American citizens. May God bless you even as he blesses the United States of America. (Applause.)