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Constitution Day 2016: New Citizens Take Oath at Iconic Sites

Students participated in real-life civics lessons at naturalization ceremonies held at iconic places from Ellis Island to Pearl Harbor, in celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on Friday, September 16. View recorded coverage from the naturalization ceremonies at Ellis Island and the Lincoln Memorial. 

This year, as part of the federal courts’ annual, national initiative, federal judges swore in new citizens at more than 40 ceremonies throughout the country. 

September 17, which this year falls on a Saturday, is the official anniversary of the signing of the Constitution in 1787, but special naturalization ceremonies are scheduled throughout the week before that date, with many events on September 16.

To help commemorate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, federal judges administed the Oath of Allegiance at such national treasures as the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C.; Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park, in Virginia; the Great Smoky Mountains, near Knoxville, TN; the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, in West Branch, IA; and Yosemite National Park, in California. Other notable locales include the Battleship USS Missouri Memorial, in Hawaii.

Second Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann, whose own father came to this country fleeing Nazi persecution, presided at the Ellis Island ceremony.

“Millions of immigrants passed through Ellis Island, welcomed by the Statue of Liberty, in the hopes of realizing and contributing to the American dream,” Katzmann said. “So, on this Constitution and Citizenship Day, it is especially meaningful to preside in a ceremony of the largest group ever naturalized together on Ellis Island, 300 new citizens from around the world.”      

The Judiciary is celebrating Constitution Day and Citizenship Day along with other members of the Civics Renewal Network, a group of 29 nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations that seeks to create informed, engaged citizens. The network provides high-quality, free classroom resources for civics education.

Students at some naturalization ceremonies participated in the third annual Preamble Challenge, in which students recited the introduction to the Constitution, in classrooms, schoolyards, and public venues. 

This year, teachers can share their Preamble Challenge and their participation in naturalization ceremonies on Twitter and Instagram using #ConstitutionDay2016. Highlights from last year’s challenge are available online.

“Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is indeed ‘a living civics lesson’ as we witness the final step of those foreign born who are about to become new citizens,” Katzmann said of the Judiciary’s observances. “And, as those new citizens raise their hands and pledge to defend the Constitution, the rest of us should take a few moments to reflect on the liberties it grants us, to realize that we must be ever vigilant to protect those liberties.”

Related Topics: Events and Ceremonies, Public Education