Melissa Hiller on September 28, 2018
In advance of the exhibit, American Patriot: Photographs by Charlee Brodsky, Poetry by Jim Daniels, now on display in the The American Jewish Museum at the JCC, Melissa Hiller, AJM Director, was the keynote speaker at the Naturalization Ceremony held at the Frick Environmental Center.
Following is her speech:
You stand here on this rainy but beautiful Fall day because of your fortitude, bravery, courage, your belief in yourself, and your hope for your future and your family’s future.
I am deeply honored and humbled to be able to share this very memorable and significant day with you.
This day will be a day you won’t ever forget and is a day that your friends and family will ask you about ten, twenty, thirty years from now. This day seals your destiny as American citizens – as patriots.
The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah just passed, which is a holiday where we blow into a ram’s horn and it makes a sound like a trumpet that’s a bit off key. It’s an important holiday because during Rosh Hashanah, that trumpet blast is a metaphor for an alarm clock sounding and that sound awakens us to rededicate and re-center ourselves to what’s most important, what’s most valuable, what’s right, what’s true; and to think about the kind of human being we hope to be in the coming year.
What I most value about this holiday and time of year is that it invites us to appreciate our journey and to reflect on how far we each have come in envisioning what it means to be alive today, right now, in this moment. It invites us to reflect that our past and all of our personal experiences serve as a catalyst for our lives in the future.
It strikes me that this day for you is a re-dedication to yourselves, it’s the start of your new beginnings as American citizens, and today marks the sum of all of your experiences, hard work, risks and sacrifices that you made that brought you here. Most definitely, today is a powerful catalyst for your future as Americans.
Another reason I am honored to be a part of your ceremony is because you represent something that is truly wonderful and distinct about this country – that its citizens come from all over the world and come from different traditions and beliefs. It’s not only the democratic principles of this country that make it so remarkable, but it’s also the diversity of all Americans.
This day is special and memorable for me, too. This is the first time I’m speaking to a group of people who are becoming naturalized citizens.
Thinking about today made me pause to consider what I want you to know about what I value most about the United States and being American.
Knowing that I live in a country that defends and protects the idea that every individual matters and has unalienable freedoms and rights instills pride in me, and I hope it does for you, too.
Your being here, being a Pittsburgher and being my neighbor, and bringing your distinct heritage, culture and memories while also pledging yourselves to this country and its ideals adds to all of us being able to thrive and grow and have better futures.