An initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Naturalization Ceremony Celebrates the American Dream

In celebration of Constitution Week, the U.S. Chamber Foundation hosted a naturalization ceremony in partnership with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington, D.C. This special occasion followed Constitution Day, which commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787.   

To begin the ceremony, U.S. Chamber Foundation Senior Vice President Michael Carney welcomed 96 candidates from 46 different countries. The ceremony also included special guest speakers Hakki Akdeniz, restauranteur and founder of Champion Pizza in New York City, and Isabella Casillas Guzman, administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). 

Hakki Akdeniz, a once-homeless immigrant turned successful entrepreneur, inspired the new citizens by sharing his own journey. Despite not knowing much English, he was determined to achieve the American dream and built a successful pizza empire one pie at a time.  

I would like to congratulate all of you for becoming American citizens. For sure this was a big decision for all of you, maybe emotional… but I promise you that you will never regret your decision. I was one of you seven years ago to become a proud American citizen,” said the Champion Pizza owner.  

Not only is he a successful businessman with 11 locations all around New York City, but he is also a leader in his community, helping the homeless and sharing his story with others. When he takes the podium, he encourages those who have become American citizens to continue working hard towards their dreams. 

I’m truly thankful for this country for guiding me to find my passion. I hope that your American dream will come true beautifully just like mine. No matter how hard it is and no matter how long it takes, if you don’t give up you will achieve anything you pursue. This is not our destination, it’s the new beginning of our next chapter. Once again congratulations and welcome,” Akdeniz said. 

During her time on stage, SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman highlighted the significance of the values that America represents—freedom, liberty, and equality. 

“As American citizens we share the values of freedom, liberty, and equality. We’re joined together as part of something bigger than ourselves, a diverse dynamic, and resilient democracy grounded in opportunity aspiration and possibilities,” said Guzman.  

Immigrants make a positive impact on the American dream by starting businesses, serving in government, and giving back to the community. Guzman explained, “Ultimately, it’s about upholding the values of freedom, liberty, and equality for all so we can continue to be a symbol of hope and opportunity to the world. I know you all represent what is possible in our nation and each of your dreams and stories add to the vibrant mosaic that is America. It is what lifts our nation, propels us into global leadership, propels our economy forward, and gives us great pride as Americans.” 

Naturalization ceremonies celebrate the diversity and strength of the United States. This occasion underscored the essence of America as a land of opportunity, emphasizing that through dedication and perseverance, anyone can transform their dreams into reality. Creating a community of like-minded individuals who support and inspire new immigrants is a goal that businesses of all sizes across America can aspire to achieve. Congratulations to all the new citizens! 

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