President Bush, Governor Pataki, Attorney General Ashcroft, Senator Schumer, Senator Clinton, Congressman Fossella, Congresswoman Maloney, Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, and in particular the 29 individuals who in a few moments will become fellow Americans: Welcome to New York. Or is it New Jersey? I'm not sure.
As I stand here I think of my grandfather Rodolfo, for whom I'm named, who left Genoa sometime in the latter part of the 19th century. I imagine him sitting on the shore of Genoa with his little bag. He only had twenty dollars in his pocket - I got that information from the records of Ellis Island. And as he was sitting there, somehow I don't think he was saying to himself, "I'm coming to New Jersey." Excuse me if I say that I am sure he was saying, "I'm coming to the place where the streets are paved with gold - New York City." He found out, of course, that the streets weren't paved with gold, but they were lined with opportunity.
Ellis Island is a wonderful place, it's a sacred place, and it's hallowed ground in American history. It's very appropriate that President Bush comes here at the start of his first visit to New York City, because when he was a governor, President Bush was a strong supporter of immigration and the rights of immigrants. He has a long history of understanding the value of immigration to America.
No less than 40 percent of all Americans can trace their ancestors' arrival in the United States to Ellis Island. For these fellow citizens, Ellis Island represents the birthplace of their American dream.
Today, we celebrate the birth of the American dream for these 29 individuals. In doing so, we affirm the enduring truth that America is a nation of immigrants - and we recognize that immigration remains our nation's most valuable renewable resource.
New Americans, from the day they become American citizens, can understand the ideals of our nation better than many people whose families have been here for generations and generations. Immigration is the secret of our success. It's certainly the secret of New York's success. The spirit of our City is renewed over and over again by new people who come here wanting to make a better life for themselves and their families, and then they make life better for all of us.
Witnessing a naturalization ceremony is a beautiful part of the American experience, and I thank the President for coming here and giving it the attention and the dignity that it deserves.
And now it is my honor to introduce the United States Immigration and Naturalization
Service Color Guard to present the Colors
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