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Monday, March 18, 2019
MRS. LAURA BUSH:
Good morning everyone, and welcome to the George W. Bush Presidential Center. President Bush and I are thrilled to host you here today for this happy occasion.
Today, 49 people, representing more than 20 countries, will become part of a very old tradition.
From the very first Indian tribes who farmed, hunted, and traded along the river valleys and across the high, grassy plains; to the Spanish explorers; to the nineteenth-century wagon trains of American and European settlers; to twentieth-century wildcatters and cattle herders, Texas has been a land of immigrants. Our state is a place where people come, year after year, to build a better life.
We’re a state that thrives due to the prosperity, ingenuity, transformation, and generosity of immigrants. And we are a much richer state for all the cultures that have settled on our land.
My life has been shaped by this richness. My grandparents were drawn to Texas by the twin promises of opportunity and good health amid the bright sunshine and dry desert air of West Texas.
My parents fell in love on their first date, as they walked across the footbridge connecting the border city of El Paso to Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez to have dinner at the glamorous Tivoli nightclub.
And I likely would have never met my husband if George and Barbara Bush hadn’t migrated from the East Coast to the oil boomtown of Midland, Texas.
The values and dreams that drew our families here are the same ones that have drawn tens of thousands of others, from around the United States, and around the world. And I know that these values and dreams are part of what led each of you on the journey that brought you to this ceremony today.
Hard work, strong values, dreams, and determination know no borders or boundaries.
They are as universal as the human desire for a better future.
Today’s new citizens represent many cultures and nearly every region of the world, from Asia to the Indian subcontinent, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South America, and Central America – and our next-door neighbors of Mexico and Canada.
It is never an easy path to leave what is familiar and venture into the unknown. Each of you has done just that. And Texas and the United States are better for it.
President Bush and I thank you for making this journey, and for choosing to come to this country and the state that we love.
Today, it is my honor to say to all of you, “Welcome, my fellow Americans.” (Applause.)
And now I’d like to introduce the former President of the United States, my husband, George Bush. (Applause.)
Well, thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Good morning everybody. I want to thank Laura for a kind introduction. And we are so glad to welcome you to the naturalization ceremony. And to the candidates: it’s going to be a privilege for me in just a few minutes to call you a fellow American.
By custom – most Americans don’t realize this, but citizens-to-be are known as “candidates.” Although for this kind of candidate there are no debates (laughter), fundraisers (laughter), recounts (laughter), or opponents – just a roomful of friends to say, “Congratulations, we are glad you’re here.”
I’d like to point out not only are you becoming an American, but as Laura mentioned, you are a Texan. (Laughter.) And if you walk out of here with a little extra attitude in your step, it shows the culture has taken hold. (Laughter.)
We have individuals and families from many backgrounds and cultures. As candidates for naturalization, you represent more than 20 countries. That’s what brings us all here. You know, the future we have in common, and a ritual that represents something fundamental and noble about this country is about to take place.
You paid America the high tribute of aspiring to live here, leaving behind familiar ways and places, and accepting a process that everyone knows is no easy. Our country, in return, honored your efforts, and soon we will be honored to call you citizen.
The United States of America is in many ways the most successful of nations. Historically, where immigration is concerned, we are also the most welcoming of nations. And these two facts are related.
So many of us can draw a line somewhere back to a man or woman who had the idea that life could be better – and that hope led them here. Generations of new arrivals left their mark on our national character, in traits that friends abroad still recognize as distinctly American: our optimism, our independence and openness to the new, our willingness to strive and to risk, our sense of life as an adventure, dignified by personal freedom and personal responsibility. Such qualities don’t come out of nowhere. A spirit of self-reliance runs deep in our immigrant heritage, along with the humility and kindness to look at someone less fortunate and see yourself.
Across the world, good men and women still dream of starting life anew in America – people who bring energy, and talent, and faith in the future. Often they bring a special love of freedom, because they have seen how life works without it.
The great yearning of so many to live in our country presents a significant challenge. America’s elected representatives have a duty to regulate who comes in and when. In meeting this responsibility, it helps to remember that America’s immigrant history made us who we are. Amid all the complications of policy, may we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength.
Public debate on the matter can get pretty sharp. That’s not exclusive to this issue or these times. I guess you’ve noticed by now that Americans like to speak their minds. You’ve just signed up with a boisterous democracy (laughter), and my hope is that you take the duties of citizenship seriously. Participate, and vote. And for whatever the opinion of one retired politician might be worth, I believe we can see our way cleared to immigration policies that are just, fair, and in the interest of the whole nation.
That starts with recognizing a plain responsibility at the border – and, in an often chaotic situation, being willing to state the obvious: Borders are not arbitrary and they need to be respected – along with the fine men and women of immigration services and our Border Patrol. Immigration statutes, likewise, reflect the will of the people and the Congress, and must be enforced. And when the laws are outdated and ineffective, they must be rewritten. I hope those responsible in Washington can dial down the rhetoric, put politics aside, and modernize our immigration laws soon.
As President, I worked hard on comprehensive immigration reform, and I regret that our efforts came up short. Today, emotions can cloud the issue. But here at the Bush Center, we are clear-eyed about the need to enforce our borders and protect our homeland, and about the critical contributions immigrants make to our prosperity and to our way of life. To that end, we have published America’s Advantage, a three-edition handbook of research on immigration’s positive effects on our economy. Our Central America Prosperity Project brings together leaders to strengthen economies, expand markets, and reduce pressure on our southern border. And we’ve convened a bipartisan immigration policy working group to develop a blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform.
For the ideal outcome, we need look no farther than this very room, and to a joyful moment you’ve waited for a long time. The path from application to oath ends on a beautiful morning in the great state of Texas. And I’m not going to put it off any longer, except to say that Laura and I proud to share in the day, to look you in the eyes, and call you our fellow citizens. Congratulations, and may God bless you. (Applause.)
President Bush was born on July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut, to Barbara and George H.W. Bush – later the 41st President of the United States. In 1948, the family moved to Texas, where George W. Bush grew up in Midland and Houston. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University in 1968 and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School in 1975. He served as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 to 1974. He settled in Midland, where he started an energy business and married Laura Welch on November 5, 1977. After working on his father’s successful 1988 Presidential campaign, George W. Bush joined a group of partners that purchased the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in 1989.
On November 8, 1994, George W. Bush was elected the 46th Governor of Texas. In 1998, he became the first governor in Texas history to be elected to consecutive four-year terms.
After the Presidency, George and Laura Bush founded the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. The Center is home to the Bush Presidential Museum and Library, which houses George W. Bush’s presidential papers. The Center is also home to the George W. Bush Institute, a public policy organization that focuses on economic growth, education reform, global health, and human freedom. The Institute supports the rights of women with its Women’s Initiative and honors those who have served in the United States armed forces through its Military Service Initiative.
President Bush is the author of Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors, a collection of paintings and stories honoring the sacrifice and courage of America's veterans. He is also the author of two bestselling books, Decision Points and 41.
He and Laura are the parents of twin daughters: Barbara, married to Craig Coyne, and Jenna, married to Henry Hager. The Bushes are also the proud grandparents of Margaret Laura “Mila” and Poppy Louise Hager. The Bush family also includes two cats, Bob and Bernadette, as well as Freddy the dog.
Laura Bush, former First Lady of the United States, is an advocate for literacy, education, and women’s rights. After leaving the White House, President and Mrs. Bush founded the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. The Center is home to the Bush Presidential Museum and Library and the George W. Bush Institute, a public policy center established to advance human freedom, economic growth, education reform, and global health.
Today Mrs. Bush pursues her work on global healthcare innovations, and empowering women in emerging democracies through the George W. Bush Institute. She serves as the Chair for the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative, guiding the Institute’s programs to advance economic opportunity, good health and human freedom for women and girls. Women’s Initiative programs are training women leaders in Egypt, raising awareness of Afghan women’s progress and plight, and convening African first ladies, government officials and public-private partnerships to invest in women’s health to strengthen Africa.
Laura Bush is a leading voice for spreading freedom and promoting human rights across the globe. For more than a decade, she has led efforts through the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council to protect the hard-earned rights of women in that country. As First Lady, she made three trips to Afghanistan and in 2001 she delivered the President’s weekly radio address – a first for a First Lady – to direct international attention to the Taliban’s oppression of women.
Long a supporter of the people of Burma, in 2006 Laura Bush hosted a roundtable discussion on Burma at the United Nations headquarters in New York. After Cyclone Nargis devastated the country in May 2008, she held an unprecedented press conference in the White House Press Briefing Room and urged the ruling junta to accept international aid. She then traveled to the Thai-Burma border, where she met with Burmese refugees. In 2012, Mrs. Bush helped to bestow the Congressional Gold Medal to Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The legislation for the medal, signed by President Bush, had been awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi in 2008 when she was under house arrest.
As First Lady, Mrs. Bush advocated the importance of literacy and education to advance opportunity for America’s young people and to foster healthy families and communities. She highlighted the importance of preparing children to become lifelong learners, convening in 2001 a White House Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development. Since 2003, she has served as the Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade. Laura Bush visited schools and met with students in nations from Afghanistan to Zambia, with a particular focus on the education of girls and women. Mrs. Bush worked with the Library of Congress to create the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. in 2001. The National Book Festival continues to this day and annually attracts more than 120,000 Americans. The Texas Book Festival in Austin was founded in 1996 by Mrs. Bush while she was First Lady of Texas. At the Bush Institute in Dallas, President and Mrs. Bush’s Education Reform initiative works to improve student achievement through effective school leadership, middle school transformation, and the use of accountability.
Because heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women, in 2003 Laura Bush partnered with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to launch The Heart Truth campaign and the Red Dress project. The Heart Truth campaign aims to raise awareness among women about their risk for heart disease. In 2006, she helped launch the first international partnerships for breast cancer awareness and research. As First Lady, she visited countries in Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America to support programs that help women detect breast cancer early so they can seek treatment when it has the best chance of success. Mrs. Bush has visited more than a dozen countries to support the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President’s Malaria Initiative. Today through the Bush Institute, Laura and George Bush continue their work to promote women’s health through Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, a health initiative that adds the testing and treatment of cervical and breast cancer to PEPFAR in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mrs. Bush is the author of the bestselling memoir, Spoken From the Heart, and bestselling children’s book, Our Great Big Backyard. She serves on many boards, including the National Advisory Board for the Salvation Army, the Council for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Board of Trustees for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Laura Bush was born in Midland, Texas, to Harold and Jenna Welch. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Southern Methodist University and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Texas. She taught in public schools in Dallas, Houston and Austin and worked as a public school librarian. She served as First Lady of Texas from 1995 to 2000.
President and Mrs. Bush are the parents of twin daughters: Barbara, married to Craig Coyne, and Jenna, married to Henry Hager. The Bushes are also the proud grandparents of Margaret Laura “Mila” and Poppy Louise Hager. The Bush family also includes two cats, Bob and Bernadette, as well as Freddy the dog.Full Bio
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Shabiha Nymphi is one of 50 immigrants who will be naturalized at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on March 18.