By Charles McCollester
October 1, 2016
Keynote Address: Naturalization Ceremony at the Pump House – site of the 1892 Battle of Homestead. September 7, 2016
It is truly an honor to be invited to address a naturalization ceremony creating new citizens of the United States of America. It is especially meaningful at this time when immigration has become controversial in a way that it has not been since the 1920s. It is also especially meaningful that this ceremony is being held in this place, the Pump House for the great Homestead Steel Works, the site of one of the most consequential conflicts in American labor history.
Like most Americans, I am a product of immigration: my father, Irish/Scots/ English mix; my mother, German; my wife, Polish. I am proud of my paternal ancestors who fought in the Revolution, the Civil War and World War II, and my mother’s uncle who volunteered for the ambulance corps in World War I because he wanted to show his love for America, but would not shoot at fellow Germans. I am equally proud, however, that many family members including myself actively protested and resisted the Vietnam War and our invasion of Iraq.
Who is an American? The “100% American” questions the loyalty of the immigrant, the aptitude of the descendants of slaves or natives, Orientals or “Hunkies,” Catholics or Muslims. But only Native Americans have any degree of antiquity to their claim on this land. We fought a revolution over the issue of ancestry as a determinant of political power. We fought a Civil War over slavery and the exclusion of a race of people from civil and legal rights. Continue reading