Judge Margaret Cangilos-Ruiz's Remarks (4/26)
Judge Margaret Cangilos-Ruiz’s Remarks: Naturalization Ceremony on 4/26/ 2017 at Skaneateles High School
My fellow Americans….each of you has been on a journey to arrive at this moment and worked hard to be able to hear these words, so let me repeat them: my fellow Americans. To be an American—unless one is native-American Indian, we or someone from whom we descended arrived here from someplace else. Following the torch of Lady Liberty we came in search of living the American dream. As true today as it was 241 years ago when we proclaimed the Declaration of Independence, we declare the equality of all before the law and, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, recognize “certain unalienable rights —that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Understand that “unalienable” rights means rights not to give away, not to be taken away, not to be denied.
Earlier in this ceremony, I recognized our military service men and women and thanked them for defending and protecting the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. But as new citizens, you have an equal and vital role to play in preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution. Every American citizen must do that as reflected in the Oath of Citizenship which you took today. But be mindful that we cannot preserve what we have not studied. We cannot protect what we don’t understand. We cannot defend what we do not know. And so it’s important that we remind ourselves and teach the next generation that we are the trustees of a tradition that can only be understood if it is taught and learned and this responsibility falls to us. How appropriate then, that we are conducting this ceremony in a vibrant, school community.
As our founding fathers stated, “A well- informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny. Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to right.” So let me offer some advice. Stay informed by reading widely about current events, be vigilant, and be circumspect of “fake news.” Express yourselves and your ideas—we in America cherish our first amendment rights of free speech. Exercise your right to vote in every local, state and federal election. You have a voice and as citizens of a government “of the people, by the people and for the people” — speak up and let your voices be heard and your votes be counted!
And, when called to do so, step forward and perform your duty as a citizen to serve on a jury. Juries are an essential component of our administration of justice in this country and perform an extremely important role. Jurors get to hear and weigh the testimony of witnesses and decide what the facts are. Then, based upon the facts the jury has found, the judge applies the law. In a very real sense, juries are the bedrock that serve to protect and safeguard our rights and liberties.
To be an American—our stories blend together. We are a nation of immigrants and the American success story simply would never have happened without the renewed sense of purpose, dynamism and optimism about the future that arrives with each one of you who come to this country, embrace it, work hard and proudly declare your allegiance and citizenship. This is our collective legacy. This is who we are as Americans. No other country welcomes so many new arrivals. No other country in the world constantly renews and refreshes itself with the hopes, the fervor, the dedication and optimism of each new generation of immigrants. We, as a country, are enriched by your presence, by the powerful trust and hope for the future that you bring with you and by your distinct qualities and unique cultural heritages. Share all of that with us. America is strengthened by the diversity and richness you bring that contributes to the amazing American spirit which keeps seeking, and persevering and dreaming. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be for many, a land of “dreams.” Dreams which lead to participation, to action, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in our better selves. We need your optimism to rekindle that deep core of optimism within us all that knows we can do better; we need your confidence and faith which are powerful forces that offer a beacon of light for those who may have become complacent as citizens.
The American dream is ever evolving and does not sit still. If you have had or will have the opportunity to visit the statue of liberty which sits in New York Harborarbor, you will see that although the statue sits on a pedestal, she herself is not standing still but is actually walking ahead and moving forward in the cause of liberty. We, too, must not stand still nor sit on our rights and take them for granted but each of us must do our part to participate as active citizens, ever vigilant to guard and protect what we have worked so hard to achieve.
Each new generation of immigrants has enriched and furthered our American dream, contributing to our cultural, spiritual and intellectual growth. I know that you will do the same and look forward to the contribution that each of you will make as we, as Americans, move forward together.
CONGRATULATIONS! Let’s give another round of applause for our new citizens.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence.