The naturalization ceremony of 25 active-duty service members at the White House "is one of my favorite things to do," Obama said Wednesday."It brings me great joy and inspiration because it reminds us that we are a country that is bound together not simply by ethnicity or bloodlines, but by fidelity to a set of ideas."
He said he couldn't be more proud than to be among the first to called the naturalized citizens "my fellow Americans."
Wednesday's naturalization ceremony affirmed that "our American journey, our success, would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe," Obama said. "We say it so often, we sometimes forget what it means -- we are a nation of immigrants."
The military personnel who took the oath of citizenship "traveled your own path to this moment," Obama said, some brought to the United States as children while others came as adults "finding your way through a new country and a new culture and a new language."
One of the new U.S. citizens, Guatemala-born Lance Cpl. Byron Acevedo, led the gathering in Pledge of Allegiance.
"I'm nervous," Acevedo said.
"All of you did something profound -- you chose to serve," Obama said. "You put on the uniform of a country that was not yet fully your own. In a time of war, some of you [were] deployed into harm's way. You displayed the values that we celebrate every Fourth of July -- duty, responsibility, and patriotism."
The United States is both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, he said.
"And that's why, as another step forward, we're lifting the shadow of deportation from serving -- from deserving young people who were brought to this country as children," Obama said. "It's why we still need a DREAM Act [the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act] -- to keep talented young people who want to contribute to our society and serve our country. It's why we need -- why America's success demands -- comprehensive immigration reform."
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