Good morning. This weekend, Americans are celebrating the anniversary of our Nation's independence. Two hundred and thirty-two years ago, our Founding Fathers came together in Philadelphia to proclaim that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The man who wrote those immortal words was Thomas Jefferson. Yesterday I celebrated the Fourth of July at Monticello, Jefferson's home in Virginia. While there, I witnessed an event that would have made the author of the Declaration of Independence proud. On Monticello's lawn, more than 70 men and women from dozens of countries raised their right hands to take the oath of American citizenship. They swore their allegiance to the Constitution. They promised that they would defend the laws of the United States. And they reminded everyone in attendance that the promise of America is open to all.
These new citizens come from countries as diverse as Burma, Afghanistan, Norway, and Iraq. These new citizens are proof that there is no American race, just an American creed. In the United States, we believe in the rights and dignity of every person, we believe in equal justice, limited government, and the rule of law, and we believe in personal responsibility and tolerance towards others. This creed of freedom and equality has lifted the lives of millions of Americans, whether citizens by birth or citizens by choice.
This creed of freedom has required brave defenders, and every generation of Americans has produced them. From the soldiers who fought for independence at Bunker Hill and Yorktown to the Americans who broke the chains of slavery, liberated Europe and Asia from tyranny, and brought down an evil empire, the people of this great land have always risen to freedom's defense.
Today, the men and women of America's Armed Forces continue this proud tradition of defending liberty. In places like Afghanistan and Iraq, many risk their lives every day to protect America and uphold the principle that human freedom is the birthright of all people and a gift from the Almighty. These brave Americans make it possible for America to endure as a free society. So on this Fourth of July, we owe all those who wear the uniform of the United States a special debt of gratitude. And we thank their families for supporting them in this crucial time for our Nation.
The Fourth of July is a day when all Americans take a moment to share a collective sense of pride in our country. We live in a nation founded on the power of an idea, a nation where opportunity is limited only by imagination, and a nation that has done more than any other to spread the light of liberty throughout the world. Today, that light shines as brightly as it did in 1776. And with "the protection of Divine Providence," it will continue to shine brightly for generations to come.
Thank you for listening.