This past Saturday, September 12, 25 Western Massachusetts residents, originally from around the world, became U.S. citizens during an emotional naturalization ceremony, held for the fourth straight year at Norman Rockwell Museum. The Honorable Daniel A. Ford, Massachusetts Superior Court Justice, administered the Oath of Allegiance to America’s newest citizens against the backdrop of Norman Rockwell’s iconic “Four Freedoms” paintings.
With permission, here are Judge Ford’s remarks to the new citizens on this special day:
I want to start by offering my sincere congratulations to all of you and by extending a warm and genuine welcome to our great national family. At a time when issues surrounding immigration, particularly illegal immigration, are very much in the news and when certain candidates for high office are focusing on those issues and highlighting them as the centerpiece of their campaign, you should be extremely proud of the fact that you are immune from criticism because you all did it the right way. You may all now take your place as full fledged American citizens, and you deserve our praise and our respect for the effort and, I’m sure, the sacrifices you have made and the hard work you have done to achieve this very significant milestone in your lives.
It really is a great pleasure for me to be here this morning to meet all of you and to preside over this wonderful ceremony. I am afraid that too many people who, like me, were born and raised in this country tend to take our rights as citizens for granted. That is very unfortunate, because we know, from past as well as current events in places like the Middle East, Africa, and others, that there are so many people around the world who are not allowed to enjoy the freedoms with which we in the United States are blessed and which you now are entitled, as proud American citizens, to exercise.
It is appropriate that this ceremony should take place in the magnificent Norman Rockwell Museum which is steeped in Americana. Many of the famous pieces of art in this establishment, such as the Four Freedoms, are directly connected to American history, and the artist himself is now widely recognized as a true American treasure who spent the better part of his life depicting the American experience. But I would suggest that it is also very fitting that the ceremony should take place in a courtroom, albeit a temporary one. I say that because while the executive and legislative branches of our government are certainly crucial to the effectuation of our chosen form of self government—-a government which, as Abraham Lincoln said, is of the people, for the people, and by the people—-it is the third branch of government, the judicial branch, which has the responsibility of protecting those individual rights which are guaranteed to all of us by our Constitution. People call our form of government a democracy, and while that is understandable it is not entirely accurate. We live in a constitutional republic, which means that our federal and state constitutions bestow upon every individual cherished rights which even the will of the majority cannot abrogate. These rights are not subject to the temporary whim of the ballot box, and it is the Court which stands as the ultimate guarantor of those rights, protecting the individual citizen against the possibility of tyranny by the majority, however unlikely that possibility may be. I am happy to say that the third branch of government has discharged that responsibility time and time again, both in the distant past and very recently, and has indeed seen to it that no popular passion or prejudice of the moment is allowed to sweep away these basic freedoms—-freedom of speech, of association, and of religion, due process and equal protection of the law, the right to be free from unlawful searches of one’s home and person, the right to bear arms, the right to vote, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, the right to be judged by a jury of one’s peers, and many others—-which we as Americans hold dear. I hope that in the not too distant future, some or all of you will be called to jury service so that you may experience for yourselves the working of the court. You may be charged with upholding the rights of one of your fellow citizens, and I am confident that you will discharge that duty extremely well and find it to be a very satisfying and rewarding experience.
In closing, I say again that it is an honor and a privilege for me to be here with you this morning, and to formally admit you to citizenship in the greatest country on the face of the earth. I hope that I do not sound boastful or overly nationalistic when I say that, but I firmly believe that it is an incontrovertible truth. Please accept my warm and heartfelt congratulations and my sincere best wishes for a happy, healthy and productive life as American citizens.
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