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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Tells Her Family’s Story of Emigrating to the U.S. During Naturalization Ceremony

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg attends the ELLE and HUGO BOSS Women in Washington Power List Dinner at The Residence of the German Ambassador on March 18, 2015, in Washington, D.C.(Credit: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for ELLE)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg attends the ELLE and HUGO BOSS Women in Washington Power List Dinner at The Residence of the German Ambassador on March 18, 2015, in Washington, D.C.(Credit: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for ELLE)

Standing before 31 men and women from 26 different countries, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recalled her own family’s history of making their way to the United States.

“My own father arrived in this land at age 13 with no fortune and speaking no English. My mother was born four months after her parents — with several children in tow — came by ship to Ellis Island. My father and my grandparents reached, as you do, for the American dream,” she said Friday morning, in the rotunda of the National Archives.

Calling it a “testament to our nation’s promise,” Ginsburg noted that the “daughter and granddaughter of immigrants sits on the highest court in the land,” speaking to the group of individuals gathered to celebrate the 227th anniversary of ratification of the Bill of Rights.

“What is the difference between a bookkeeper in New York City’s Garment District and a Supreme Court Justice? One generation,” Ginsburg said.

At the ceremony, some of the nation’s most treasured documents were on display as the 31 individuals were sworn in as new US citizens by Judge Beryl Howell, the chief judge of the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Made up of all ages, the group took the Oath of Allegiance to “support and defend” the Constitution, and those in the room applauded as the group smiled and waved hand-held American flags.

During her remarks, which lasted about 10 minutes and carried an optimistic tone, Ginsburg said “new Americans of every race and creed making ever more vibrant our national motto E Pluribus Unum, out of many one.”

However, the Supreme Court justice, who has become notably political in the Trump era, also noted that “though we have made huge progress, the work of perfection is scarcely done.

“Many stains remain,” Ginsburg said. “In this rich land, nearly a quarter of our children live in poverty, nearly half of our citizens do not vote, and we still struggle to achieve greater understanding and appreciation of each other across racial, religious and socioeconomic lines.”

She continued: “Yet, we strive to realize the ideal to become a more perfect union. As well-informed new citizens, you will play your part, a vital part in that endeavor by first and foremost voting in elections.”

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