Service Members Become Citizens At White House

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Earlier today at the White House, President Obama presided over a special swearing-in ceremony.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What a perfect way to celebrate America's birthday, the world's oldest democracy, with some of our newest citizens.

SIEGEL: The Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano administered the Oath of Allegiance that all new citizens must take.

SECRETARY JANET NAPOLITANO: I hereby declare, on oath...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: I hereby declare, on oath...

SIEGEL: Today's ceremony was dedicated to 25 active duty members of the U.S. military. Their path to citizenship was expedited by serving in the armed forces.

NAPOLITANO: Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

SIEGEL: A beaming President Obama then spoke to the uniformed men and women who had gathered at the White House with their friends and family.

OBAMA: We are a nation of immigrants. Unless you are one of the first Americans, a Native American, we are all descended from folks who came from someplace else.

SIEGEL: The service members who became citizens today come from 17 different countries including Russia, Cameroon, China and Palau. And the ceremony concluded with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Lance Corporal Byron Acevedo. An American today, he was born in Guatemala and served in Afghanistan. He took the stage in the East Room right after the president spoke.

LANCE CORPORAL BYRON ACEVEDO: I'm nervous.

(LAUGHTER)

ACEVEDO: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Thank you, everybody. Have a great Fourth of July. Congratulations to our newest citizens. Yay.

SIEGEL: President Obama at the White House earlier today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.