Speeches

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger
United States District Court Naturalization Ceremony
July 31, 2009

It is my pleasure to welcome you as our newest citizens during this month of July when we celebrate the birthday of the United States. You woke up this morning to a bright new day – a day on which you become an American. There are 34 of you participating in this wonderful ceremony from 16 different countries. How wonderful for all of us here to be able to see you take your oath of allegiance to the United States of America.

It is often said that we are a nation of immigrants. That is the truth and today you join a long line of remarkable people, people who journeyed here and raised families and populated  this great country. By 1920, over 23 million people had come to America from every region of the world. This group included my father’s parents, who crossed the Atlantic from Poland and settled in a small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania. They raised 11 children here, all born in the United States. But little did they dream that one day, one of their sons, a carpenter, would raise a daughter who would graduate from college. And then she would be able to go to law school and then be privileged to be elected and serve as a municipal, a common pleas, a court of appeals judge and a supreme court justice of the state of Ohio.

My happy story is just one story that could be told in the three generations of my family. Each of you has a story too, and reasons that inspired you to come to a new county to make a new life. Tell your story again and again. Unless you tell the next generation what life was like in your homeland, they will lose that important heritage. They may take for granted all the good things, all the blessings, that you have secured for them in these United States. Your descendants may indeed have great opportunities because of your steadfastness and courage and because of the sacrifices you made to become an American.

You will be able to tell your children’s children about how you first left your native land perhaps with much uncertainty and little real understanding of all you would have to endure. You lived through the first difficult adjustments in a strange place – perhaps a new language, new ways of doing things -- and you made a dramatic choice that can take years to complete. Certainly you had to be patient in following the immigration process and you had to work hard to study and learn about this country and its history and government.  I have seen the naturalization test and I know that you are probably better informed than most of us about the civic rights and responsibilities of a U.S. citizen.

You’ve already learned much, but don’t stop doing so after today. Continue to pay attention to your government and what it does – watch your president and Congress—learn about your federal and state courts.  Both Judge Zouhary and I hope you will be called to serve on a jury and see first-hand how our legal system operates. As judges, we  are proud to serve a country  founded on the rule of law and equal justice for all. Please register to vote because voting is a fundamental way to show your patriotism.

Do not be afraid to enjoy your native cultures. Practice whatever faith you believe and respect the rights of others to do the same. By sharing your background and experiences with your fellow citizens and living a good life, you will make our country better, stronger and richer.

Today is a momentous day. This matter of taking American citizenship and  becoming part of the American people is not like getting a driver's license or changing apartments or putting on a new suit of clothes. Instead, this is a permanent and very serious thing. We Americans are bound together as a family, united not by blood ties, but by common ideals, common language, common history — what President Abraham Lincoln once called the "mystic chords of memory." That common history is now yours and we are glad you are now fully part of it.  You are citizens of the United States of America!

And so, dear fellow citizens, we welcome you and celebrate with you as the newest members of our American family.  We ask only that you honor, protect and hold your new country dear; she has opened her arms lovingly to you.  May you and your families always be blessed, and let us ask God to bless our America!