Remarks by Director Iancu at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Ceremony

Remarks delivered at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Ceremony

Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu

July 30, 2019

Alexandria, Virginia

As prepared for delivery

Good morning, and thank you, Sarah (Taylor) for that introduction. On behalf of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I’m delighted to welcome you all to our agency on this very special and momentous day!

I welcome all the candidates for citizenship here with us. I’m thrilled for you. And I’m thrilled for this country to have you.

In the mid-1980s, I also attended a ceremony just like this one, where I became a naturalized American citizen. That was a day I will never forget, just like you will not forget today. 

I was born in Romania in the late 1960s. I came to America in 1981 with my family, at the height of the Cold War. We arrived with very few personal possessions, and I spoke virtually no English. I attended public schools in California for all of my education and all of my degrees. In September 2017, President Trump nominated me to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of this agency—the USPTO. In February 2018, the United States Senate voted unanimously to confirm my nomination.

My personal story would not have been possible anywhere else in the world, or at any other time in history. But I tell you this story not to tell you about me. This story is about America. For my story is her story. My story is a testament to the true promise of this country, and the fundamental goodness of its people. 

And my story is your story, and of all the immigrants who came to this land before you. 

American history is full of remarkable achievements by immigrants and children of immigrants. Because we are at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where inventors come with their inventions, let me give you examples of some remarkable inventors who came to us from foreign lands.

Take, for instance, Nikola Tesla, who immigrated to the United States from Croatia in 1884. Fascinated with electricity, Tesla went to work with George Westinghouse, one of America’s greatest electrical engineers and entrepreneurs. While there, Tesla invented devices that worked on alternating current (AC). A “war of currents” then developed over whose electrical system would power the world: Thomas Edison's direct-current electric power, or the alternating-current system from Tesla and Westinghouse. In the end, Tesla’s AC current triumphed. To this day, AC power is the main standard here and around the world.

A more recent example is Sumita Mitra, who immigrated to the United States from India. An alumna of Calcutta University and then the University of Michigan, Dr. Mitra worked in 3M’s Oral Care division, where she began to use nanotechnology to improve dental fillings. While there, she invented Filtek, a revolutionary dental filling material that can be used for restoring teeth in any area of the mouth and mimics both the beauty and strength of natural teeth. To date, Filtek products have been used in more than 600 million tooth restorations worldwide. For her contributions to dentistry, Dr. Mitra—who holds 99 U.S. patents—was formally inducted last year into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF).
These are the stories of America. Nikola Tesla and Sumita Mitra and countless other immigrants come to this country for freedom and opportunity—dreaming big, taking risks, working hard, and helping to change the world for the better. And they do great things.

This is the promise of America. Of all the places around the world, of all the nations throughout history, it is here, in the United States, that freedom is real and opportunity is true. For it is here that we are truly free. Free to imagine, and free to try. Free to succeed, and even free to fail. Free to work hard, and free to reap the fruits and the dignity of that work. This is the pull this country has on people across the world. America’s promise of hope and freedom is real. You and I are living proof of it.  

Each of you has walked a very unique path to reach this day. As our newest citizens, I’m grateful that you are joining our country’s rich tapestry of people from all backgrounds. And as our newest citizens, I hope you stay engaged. Participate in the public discourse. Help make this country and the world a better place. I’m confident that your contributions will be great, and that ours will be a better country because of them.

Thank you for choosing to become Americans and taking all required steps to fulfill that dream. Congratulations on your citizenship!