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Monticello – The Home of Independence Day

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The following is a guest post by Bacilio Mendez II, an intern in the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress.

What do Madeleine Albright, Diane von Fürstenberg, Elaine Chao, and Pamela Anderson have in common? … No clue? … I’ll give you a hint, it’s the same thing that Albert Einstein, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Cary Grant, and Patrick Ewing also have in common.

Still stumped?

Well, aside from being famous for possessing talents that many among us aspire to emulate, these great Americans didn’t start out as Americans at all. That’s right, all of these icons of American culture are naturalized United States citizens. In fact, they all share that commonality with the subjects of this post. While the faces in the photo may not be as immediately recognizable as the names listed earlier some of our readers may recognize the backdrop.

The 2010 Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. Photo Credit: Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc./Monticello, photograph by Jack Looney.

Just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, you will find the only historic home in the United States on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage ListMonticello.

It is all too fitting that new citizens are sworn in every year on the Fourth of July at the site that Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, also called home.

Please join the In Custodia Legis blog in celebrating these and all citizens of the United States by having a safe and happy Independence Day!


  1. Thank you so much for this thoughtful post. As the first person born in the U.S. on both sides of my family, this is the first thing I have seen leading up to/after the Fourth of July that really resonated with me. I think what it means to be American is choice … and hope. When earlier generations fought for freedom from the British (only to exact their own tyranny upon the locals, of course), they were choosing to identify with a new country, way of life and people. They believed in the promise of a better future.

    I think that is still very much true today for immigrants. They buy into the truest most sincere version of what the U.S. strives to be and was meant to be (if you take the time to look at things like the Bill of Rights or Declaration of Independence). The fact that these documents can evolve to reflect more accurately what this country is and can become is a testament to it’s strength and character (i.e., oh yeah maybe women should be allowed to vote and oh yeah maybe people of color are … oh, people). In other words, immigrants actively choose to be a part of this living history–rather than being born into it passively.

    It’s in the scary times in which we find ourselves today that this becomes even more important. Desperately so. And I am as proud to be American today as I am of my parents’ nationalities (which I also call my own). I think it’s foolish for those of us who are disappointed with recent events to believe great countries happen by accident or can be maintained without active, responsible action on the part of its citizens (i.e., you and me). It’s also silly to pretend this country was ever perfect. The potential for greatness coupled with humility is there and along with potential comes hope.

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